To my friends, supporters and well wishers
by: Dr Mohammad Akram Nadwi
While I am grateful to you for your kindness and good intentions in defending me, on the internet and on social media, from those who criticise my opinions and arguments, I must respectfully ask you: please stop! Let me explain why I ask this.
It is an important obligation upon all Muslims to say and do what maintains and improves the solidarity of the ummah. When Muslims attack and defend this opinion or another opinion, they create distrust and ill-feeling. That distrust leads often to enmity and sectarianism. Then, people are unable to trust in each other’s good will and good intentions. When that happens, the differences of opinion, attitude, and behaviour cease to be means of knowing each other and learning from each other. Instead, the differences become barriers. Motivations change so that the objective is no longer to do the right thing; rather it is to do ‘my’ thing or ‘our’ thing. And how is ‘our’ thing defined? It is defined as being not ‘your’ thing or ‘their’ thing.
You can see, my dear friends, that this is a disaster for the ummah, and for our solidarity as Muslims. So, do not go on the internet or social media to defend me against my critics. Instead, use the time and energy you save in study and worship. It is also useful to use time to try to understand the opinions and arguments of those who differ from us.
Now, you may ask, does it not matter what Muslims say and do? Is everybody just as right, or just as wrong, as everyone else?
No. But there is time and place, a right way and wrong way to disagree, to persuade others, to engage in reform. For certain, criticising people when they are not present – always the case on social media – is back-biting, which God has said is abhorrent. So we must not do it. Secondly, we should distinguish the opinions we hold and the way we prefer to do things when we are in our own company from what is permissible and wise when we are in the company of others. For example, when we are guests, we should follow the manner and procedures of our hosts, unless they are insisting to something explicitly forbidden. We can go along with the manners of worship in a mosque, even if we would not prefer them ourselves, because being a coherent body of worshippers is more important than insisting there and then on our own preferences. On many occasions, in real life, there is an obvious order of events, or obvious line of authority – we should follow it.
Unfortunately, social media situations do not have this property of real life – rather, anybody can say anything about anything – as there were no consequences.
My good friends, there are consequences – for the time we waste in contentiousness and dispute, time that could be better spent in other ways; for the stirring up of ill-feeling, of hardening party lines, etc.