“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favour of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favour, brothers” (3:103).
One of the great challenges of a community is to remain united through its evolution and sadly, on occasions, internal factors that may cause a community split – at times one mosque becomes two rival groups that create discord against one another and so on. Fracturing is not limited to a community but can also spread to families, business partners, and friends.
How does the Qur’an set out the guidelines on healing such fractures such that they do not become generational or cause loss in the hereafter?
Importance of unity in a community
The Qur’an explicitly tells us not to be divided saying: “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favour of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favour, brothers” (3:103). This is “lest you lose courage and your strength depart” (8:46).
In the famous supplication of al-Iftitah (1) recited in the month of Ramadan we say:
O Allah: through him, set in order our disorder
اللّهُمَّ الْمُمْ بِه شَعَثَنَا
gather and unite our flock
وَاشْعَبْ بِهِ صَدْعَنَا
stitch together our ripped open separation
وَارْتُقْ بِهِ فَتْقَنَا
Stopping disunity precedes having to reunite afterwards
In the individual
When the light of faith illuminates the heart of a person, it is natural he will reform himself afresh continuously. Whatever darkness (dhulemaat) exists in him, he extinguishes it and whatever of light (noor) exists in him, he spreads it; whatever guidance (hidayat) resides in him, he increases it and whatever evil that remains in him, he limits and crushes it.
This includes ego, hypocrisy, deceit, falsification, spreading of rumours, jealousy, anger, revenge and anything that contributes to the fracturing of a community.
Their motto becomes as the Qur’an says:
صِبْغَةَ اللّهِ وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللّهِ صِبْغَةً وَنَحْنُ لَهُ عَابِدونَ
(2:138) [Say: “Our life takes its] hue and colouring from God! And who could give a better hue and colouring [to life] than God, if we but truly worship Him?”
In the community
One of the great traits of the Prophet Muhammad (s) was his ability to unite disparate and warring peoples; this is why he (s) invited by the Aws and Khazraj to migrate to Medina as their arbiter.
Surah al-Hashr, chapter 59 of the Qur’an, was revealed about the unity of Muslims and the disunity of their enemies. It speaks to the events of the migrants of Mecca being evicted from their houses and leaving with nothing, and coming to Medina to join the Helpers (Ansar) who themselves lived in extreme poverty.
This would add an extra strain on the city of Medina and cause tensions between the groups. You can imagine today that even with such vast resources in the Western world, many disdain refugees fleeing war, poverty and disaster and migrating to ‘their’ regions. This may have been felt by the Ansar of Medina toward their new compatriots.
Allah (swt) revealed a verse with three guiding principles on ensuring unity remains before disunity may enter and fracture a community:
وَالَّذِينَ تَبَوَّؤُوا الدَّارَ وَالْإِيمَانَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ يُحِبُّونَ مَنْ هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَا يَجِدُونَ فِي صُدُورِهِمْ حَاجَةً مِّمَّا أُوتُوا وَيُؤْثِرُونَ عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ وَلَوْ كَانَ بِهِمْ خَصَاصَةٌ وَمَن يُوقَ شُحَّ نَفْسِهِ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
(59:9) “And [also for] those who were settled in al-Madina and [adopted] the faith before them. They love those who emigrated to them and find not any want in their breasts of what the emigrants were given but give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful.”
1) Genuine love those who may be considered ‘other’ than you.
2) Do not covet what they are given.
3) Give preference to them over your own selves.
These three cover attitudes, material things, and practical steps. In these ways, and especially by giving preference to others, the Ansar remained patient and considerate of the Emigrant’s case, having already lost their houses, belongings, and in many cases lives, family and friends. Disunity could not creep in as so much care was provided to each other causing greater love and appreciation to grow between them.
Allah gives the example of disunity in the ranks of the enemies
In the same Chapter, Allah (swt) talks about the Quraysh, the Jews of Medina and the Hypocrites of Medina, that although they seem powerful, in reality they are weak because of their disunity and will only ever fight from behind the covers that hide them:
لَا يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ جَمِيعًا إِلَّا فِي قُرًى مُّحَصَّنَةٍ أَوْ مِن وَرَاء جُدُرٍ بَأْسُهُمْ بَيْنَهُمْ شَدِيدٌ تَحْسَبُهُمْ جَمِيعًا وَقُلُوبُهُمْ شَتَّى ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَّا يَعْقِلُونَ
(59:14) “Never will they fight you, [even] in unison, otherwise than from within fortified strongholds or from behind walls. Severe is their warlike discord among themselves: thou wouldst think that they are united, whereas [in fact] their hearts are at odds [with one another]: this, because they are people who will not use their reason.”
Compare this to how the believers should be: (61:4) “Verily, God loves [only] those who fight in His cause in [solid] ranks, as though they were a building firm and compact.” This is a lesson that size or wealth or prestige of the community isn’t the sole factor in their real strength.
Supplication for guidance in being a disuniting factor in the community
Imam Ali ibn al-Hussain (a) – the Master of the the Worshippers – in his magnificent supplication, Du’a Makarim al-Akhlaq, the du’a for completing one’s characteristics and mannerisms (2), has a number of verses on asking for guidance through circumstances that include fractions.
When matters seem confusing or when a person does not realise he himself is a cause of dissension in the community, this needs addressing with reflection, sincerity and determination to be honest within oneself, not just empty words. He (a) says:
أللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى مُحَمَّـد وَآلِـهِ
وَادْرَأ عَنّي بِلُطْفِـكَ، وَاغْـذُنِي بِنِعْمَتِكَ،
وَأَصْلِحْنِي بِكَرَمِـكَ، وَدَاوِنِي بصُنْعِـكَ،
وَأَظِلَّنِيْ فِي ذَرَاكَ، وجَلِّلْنِي رِضَـاكَ،
وَوَفِّقنِي إذَا اشْتَكَلَتْ عَلَيَّ الأمُـورُ لأِهْدَاهَـا،
وَإذَا تَشَابَهَتِ الأعْمَالُ لأزْكَاهَا
وَإذَا تَنَاقَضَتِ الْمِلَلُ لأِرْضَاهَا
“O God, bless Muhammad and his Household,
repel from me through Thy gentleness, feed me through Thy favour,
set me right through Thy generosity, heal me through Thy benefaction,
shade me in Thy high value, wrap me in Thy good pleasure,
and give me success to reach the most guided of affairs when affairs confuse me,
the purest of works when works seem similar,
and the most pleasing to Thee of creeds when creeds conflict!”