When human beings are endowed with reason by God, they are able to accomplish much more than other creations. Amongst them are being able to think not only creatively and critically, but also in retrospect of their past actions and advancing for the better to the extent of building or even rebuilding their civilisations.
One of the important processes that contributes to the development of the human civilisation is the continuous debates and arguments that arise from differing points of views. Through such debates, ideas are refined and solutions to the problems of human life are continuously sought.
Intellectually, the process of exchanges of views and ideas is best explained through the Hegelian dialectics which analyse historical progress through three important phases—thesis followed by antithesis and then synthesis. Differences, from this perspective, create alternatives which will help solve the conflicts and disagreements at hand.
Thus, disagreements or differences of ideas constitute a natural part to human development. As Mark Twain used to say, “Differences of opinion make horse races”.
In fact, one of the natural creations of God is that men, although originating from the same single pair of Adam and Eve, branch out into various groups. The Qur’an states that, “O mankind, We have created you from a single pair of male and female, and have divided you into nations and tribes, so that you shall recognise each other.” (al-Hujurat 49:13). In another verse God says, “And amongst His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the variation in your languages, and your colours. Verily in that, is a sign for those who know.” (al-Rum, 30:22)”
Despite its positive point, differences and disagreements bear negative implications. Differences are known as precursors to fights amongst men. History can attest to differences of ideologies in socio-political and economic matters as instigators to numerous wars claiming millions of lives.
With no less number of casualties are disagreements in religious views and doctrines, either inter-religion or intra-religion. The extremists among religious followers should also bear the blame of the multitude of problems in the history of mankind.
The Qur’an records that the human tendency to bear discord among men was already pre-empted by the angels when they questioned God at the time of Adam’s creation, “Behold that when your Lord said to the angels, ‘I will create vicegerent on earth.’ They said, ‘Will you place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?’” (al-Baqarah, 2:30)
Hence, it is apparent that differences and disagreements can lead to both the good as well as bad, depending on how the situation is handled. Definitely, what we need is disagreement that leads to positive results. This is precisely what Prophet Muhammad meant when he said that “Differences in my community is a blessing (rahmah).”
Yet, what kind of differences leads to blessings?
Firstly, it must be based on knowledge in the sense that every opinion is properly justified. Hence, there has to be proper proof (dalil) that will substantiate a given view. With proper justification and proof in place, every opinion remains valid even if it is in opposition with another. Such is the case in Islamic jurisprudence where different schools (mazahibs) are relatively true based on justified views (ijtihad) of scholars in the respective schools.
Secondly, it must be reasonable. So often are disagreements coloured with emotions that ultimately lead to aggressive actions. As such, disagreements should not aim at degrading the dignity of individuals. As disagreements aim at proper understanding, reason naturally must prevail in any circumstances.
Thirdly, differences which are blessed are ones based on sincere intentions. Since knowledge is aimed at truth, disagreements based on knowledge will end with truth. So, when we arrived at truth, it must be accepted, thus ceasing disagreements.
Finally, differences should contribute to the widening spectrum of knowledge which will create alternative views and will help people look at something from different perspectives. This will generate more ways of solving problems. Thus, differences just for the sake of disagreements would only be an exercise in futility.
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