A survey of Islamic thought and history and an exploration of the causes of conflicts shows that they centered on the following points: 1- Scientific differences and the multip-licity of the Methods of Ijtihad, Comprehension and Istinbat:
It is a scientific conflict, like the differences of whether a given tradition truly came from the Prophet (s.a.w.) or not, or the differences on the meaning of a particular Qur’anic verse, or the rules derived from it, or the abrogation of it by a another verse or not, or accepting a particular historical event or rejecting it, or the differences on whether to accept certain terminologies, such as, `Qiyas’ (analogy) and `Istihsan’ (approval) or not, or to accept the companions school of thought `madhab al-Sahabi’ as a compulsory verdict or not, which continues even to the present day.
Just as these issues and realities have a direct bearing on one’s understanding of Islamic legislation and ideology, the level of knowledge of the scholar practicing `Istinbad’, and his ability, also affect the understanding.
Scientific conflicts take a great share in indoctrinating the academic mentality and promoting the by and opinions through conducting provocations, criticisms, dialogues and methodology in order to defend the accepted theory.
2- Bigotry and Selfish Desire: This is where the greatest problem lies, because bigotry, corrup-tion and selfish desire negate all objectivity, scientific thinking and the methodology of dialogue. Instead it brings about mental impedi-ments, deepens the conflicts, sows hatred and vengence on the opposite view. In this case, the scientific dialogue gives way to protecting selfish interests and personal accomplish-ments rather than depending on the truth, principles and scientific reality.
3- Political and Worldly Interests: The beginning of the conflicts which occured on the day of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) demise, was political in nature, as there are differences on the understanding of the Qur’an and the Sunna (the Prophet’s Traditions) and their applications. These facts became conspicuous during the time of the companions, especially under the rule of Uthman bin Affan, the third caliph, when he mainly depended on the Umayyads in his administration. The revolt against Uthman and his assassination, the outbreak of armed conflicts between the constituted authority of Imam Ali (a.s.) and the seccesionist Mu’awiyya bin Abi Sufyan are all proofs of political differences.
As a result, two governments existed in the Islamic community, the cause of which was political differences, as well as, the differences in understanding and applying of the Book and the Sunna. One of these two governments represented the Omayyads, which was considered, by the companions, as having submitt-ed to Islam by force (after oppressing and subsequently fighting it). The second government consisted of Imam Ali (a.s.) and the Prophet’s companions `sahaba’ both the immegrants `Muhajirin’ and the helpers `Ansar’ who made up the vanguards for building Islam under the leadership of Imam Ali (a.s.), and saw his superiority in the field of leadership and legislation.
When the two governments became distinct from one another, the Omayyad government consolidated its power by adopting the ideological conflicts and tyrannizing the scholars and men of political and jurisprudential thought who subscribed to the school of Ali and his household `Ahlul-Bait’ . This action was meant to exclude them from the political struggle thereby eliminating any political opposition. A war of propaganda and slander was waged against the followers of Ah-lul-Bait (a.s.) and their ideology.
Then came the Abbasids dynasty which proved more oppressive and terroristic to the Ahl-ul-Bait (household) of the Holy Prophet (a.s.). It is noteworthy that the tyranny of these dynasties did not stop at the Imams of the Ahl-ul-Bait (a.s.), and the scholars of their school, but affected the founders of other Islamic schools, as well.
Those people with political interests, the sycophants and beneficiaries had their day, sowing those differences between the Muslims, applying it in order to conselidate their power and posing as defenders of this school or that, to gain followers and protectors. Islamic history is replete with bloody wars between the rulers who exploited that destructive weapon.
4- Historical Differences: History is nothing but a register of events and occurances which took place in the past according to the social laws. The Muslims paid great attention in writing the life history of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and Islamic history throughout the ages. Nevertheless, historical records are afflicted by a great problem which shows itself as the absence of fairness and objectivity and the existence of forgery, or skipping a good deal of facts in order to please political figures, or because of enmity towards other ideological or jurisprudential schools, or because of blind bigotry. These attitudes had distorted the reality and other historical facts and records.
After the spreading of knowledge and aware-ness and the later generations becoming enlighten-ed, the rise of Islamic reform movements, the clamour for proximity of the Muslims, their consciousness of the danger of contemporary `Jahiliyya’ and the political, ideological and the civilizational challenges, caused the Muslims to turn to ideological dialogue and scientific investi-gation. The first step they took was to start from the postulates and facts accepted by all, so that these axioms would be the foundation of understanding and dialogue in establishing the truths.
It is pertinent, here, to mention the steps to be taken in the dialogue between Muslims. Scientific experience has proved that these steps can contribute immensely in bringing about the mutual understanding and removal of the mental and ideological obstacles in the way of proximity. We hope that these steps can make the foundation of ideological and political unity among the Muslims.
Those concerned with this difficult task should also be able to differentiate one sect from another and employ the appropriate methods in discussing with each other. The Islamic postulates accepted by all Muslims and on which any dialogue between members of different sects or schools of thought should be based are centered on the following points:
1- That every person who testifies to the two testimonies (that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad (s.a.w.) is His Messeng-er) is a Muslim. He enjoys the rights other Muslims enjoy and is charged with responsibilities similar to theirs.
2- That disunity, disputes and enmity between the Muslims are forbidden in Islam. All the Muslims accept this fact and their duty is to act as one community with the same objectives.
3- The Muslims share the view that to exercise Itihad is allowed and that Islamic rules are of two categories; those that occur in clear texts and those that are the result of `Ijtihad’. That there shall be no Ijtihad where a clear text exists. That the result of `Ijtihad’ is, at most, speculative and therefore liable to criticism and abrogation where the mistake of the scholar exercising Ijtihad is established. On these bases, the scientific dialogue concerning the disputed issues takes off.
4- The Book and the Sunna are the basic proofs accepted by all Muslims and the yardstick for all other disputed proofs. The discussion must start from this fact, then proofs are adduced for the soundness or otherwise of other sources of Islamic jurisprudence, such as analogy `qiyas’ and approval `istihisan’. Similarly, the proofs for the controversial secondary rules `ahkam al-far`iyya’ are tested.
5-The experts on hadith and other great learned scholars from different Islamic schools and sects have compiled the hadith from different chains of narrators producing their compendiums of hadith. Each one of these scholars had his narrators by whom he related the hadith and ascribed it to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.).
The books compiled by these scholars contain conflicting narrations coming from those narrators and the scholars from different schools of thought never approved the soundness of whatever is recorded in those compendiums. Each scholar, therefore, holds his view and criticizes that of others.
The method of scientific dialogue which is followed by the true believers in establishing unity and mutual understanding between the Islamic schools of thought, makes it incumbent on the Muslims to consent to the facts accepted by the scholars. They should examine the chains of narrators of controversial narrations to know the extent to which they conform to the Book of Allah and the unanimously confirmed hadiths of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.). This will help them to know the sound hadith and free them from ideological enmity which the enemies of Islam, who reap benefits from our disunity, try to perpetuate.
It will also make them realize that the weak narrations found in the hadith books, are regarded as a pretext for attacking one another, being denounced as renegades or sinners or villifying others. Definitely, scientific investigation, methoological intellect, sincere and true approach in searching for facts, is the only healthy way for conducting dialogue among Islamic schools. This same method must be employed when studying books on history and biography in order to establish historical facts, correcting historical distor-tions and cleansing it of falsehood and interpolations.
Adapted from: “The Methods Of Propagation and Missionary Work” by: “Sayyid Bahashti”