You often hear conversations among some Muslims about how proud we are of our numbers. The Ummah is something we feel strong in. Sadly it’s easy to say we are one Ummah and less easy to put that into practice.
It is no secret there are sects within Islam, with people deriving jurisprudence from different sources. The two largest ones are Ahlus Sunnah and Shia Ithna Ashari.
We are each unique. In our personalities, in our nature, in our perspectives. And yes, our differences should not be ignored. They should be celebrated.
But differences are seen as a threat.
Learning about how other people do things is not going to make you become like them. We’ve all seen what happens when these differences are seen as a threat. The death toll keeps rising – not just in Pakistan but all over the world.
Here are a few things to apply this Muharram.
Be more open and welcoming.
Perhaps the only way so much anger found a place in the Ummah is because each sect has created a huge gap between each other. Rather than being scared of each other and creating this distance people with agendas can easily exploit, we should be way more welcoming to each other. Find opportunities to emphasize the things we have in common. We won’t even have time to entertain hatred.
Don’t avoid questions and don’t be offended by them.
If someone is asking you questions, don’t be offended by them. It’s a good thing. Someone wants to know more about you!
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Most people respond well to polite questions. Every friend circle if it’s large enough is going to have a Shia in it. Or someone from a minority belief. You’re already interacting with them. If they’re comfortable and cool with it, go ahead and ask if you can borrow some books or attend some talks.
Be educated about your own sect
If you knew more about your own background you’d be strong. And strong people can’t be brainwashed by people who want you to hate other sects.
If you think God is going to reward you for hunting down people who have different beliefs and insulting and abusing them, it means you haven’t really met God yet. Get to know your God. Read the Quran. Listen to your learned Ullema who promote unity and wisdom. Don’t be invited by would-be scholars who call for fasaad.
Buy and read books of the other sect
Liberate yourself by exploring the other perspective. Many Shias own books of the Sunni mazhab like Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim and vice versa. There are books by Ullema as well, of both sects, that are worth a read.
Don’t compromise on your own values and don’t expect others to compromise on theirs
God gave you free will and God gave you your Aql. If these lead you to a certain way of expressing your faith, that is your spiritual journey to make. Please extend other people the same courtesy.
Try being intellectual about things
Yes, it’s easy to be swept up in the hype about stuff. The hype of haw hye is the death of brain cells in Pakistan. Ask yourself if Shias have a different Hajj, why do so many Shias apply for Hajj in Makkah? If Shias have a different Quran, have you ever seen such a book? Why do you think it exists? Because somebody told you so? If the only crime the Shias have is they believe in a few things different from you, then what will you do for the rest of your life every time someone has a different belief from you? Try thinking a little. Don’t swallow everything you hear.
Don’t dismiss human rights abuses
This is one Ummah. The famous hadeeth says the Ummah is like one body. Meaning if one part hurts, the rest will also be in pain. Sadly when atrocities happen because of certain regimes, those acts of violence are ignored. Even if children suffer. This is all because people have a herd mentality and cannot bear to criticise something their elders don’t criticise. This is a very fairy tale view of Islam. If someone in your neighbourhood dies in a target killing, please don’t meet the widow and start talking about yahoodi sazish. As much as international forces fund our instability, at the end of the day it is our people who have weakened to the point we have countless orphans who are without parents because of these killings. Why did we allow this? Why don’t we take responsibility?
Always start and end conversations with positivity
There’s always something to learn. If there are things you don’t know about the family of your Prophet (SAW) then you can always compliment the other person on their awareness on the matter. At the very least we can all agree the tabarruk Haleem and Biryani is the last word in taste-bud exploding goodness.