Etiquette of Differing in Islam
Islam has laid down lofty standards for how the Muslim, who traverses the methodology of the Prophetic Sunnah, should deal with his brother who has differed with him in an issue of ijtihad (exercise of judgment).
Indeed, how outstanding is the statement of the merciful gift [i.e. the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam]: "Indeed I have been sent to perfect noble manners." [Reported by al-Bukhari in al-Adabul-Mufrad]
From these etiquette (aadab) are:
1 - To have an open heart in accepting what comes to you by way of clarification of the mistakes that you have made, and to know that this is from the sincere advice which your brother for Allah's sake is giving to you as a gift. So know that your refusal of the truth and your becoming angry for your own self is actually from pride.
Indeed, the most eminently truthful (SAWS) said: "Pride is to reject the truth and to scorn other people." [Muslim] There are many examples of this noble mannerism that our Pious Predecessors have demonstrated to us; from them is what al-Hafidh Ibn Abdul-Barr said: "A number of people informed me that Abu Muhammad Qasim ibn Asbagh said: When I travelled to the east, I stopped of at al-Qayrawan and I took the hadeth of Musaddad from Bakr ibn Hammad. I then proceeded to Baghdad and met the people.
When I left, I returned to him [i.e. Bakr] to complete the hadeth of Musaddad, so one day I read to him the hadeth of the Prophet (SAWS): That a people from Mudhar (a famous Arab tribe) came in stripped woolen shirts (mujtabi an-nimar). He said to me: 'It is: 'mujtabi ath-thimar'.' So I said: ''Mujtabi an-nimar' is how I read it out to all those I read it to in Andalus and Iraq.'
So he said to me: 'You have, by entering Iraq, contradicted us and become arrogant against us.' Then he said: 'Stand with us and let us go to that shaykh - a shaykh who was in the mosque - for he has the likes of this knowledge.' So I went with him and we asked him about this, so he replied: 'It is: 'mujtabi an-nimar,' just as you said. They used to wear stripped clothing, with pockets at their fronts. And nimar is the plural of namirah.' Bakr ibn Hammad then said whilst holding his nose: 'My nose debases itself to the truth, my nose humbles itself to the truth,' [and] he then departed."
Do you not see this amazing sense of justice? How much are we in need of it today? However, this is not possible except for those who purify their intentions for Allah's sake. Indeed here is Imam Malik, may Allah have mercy upon him, saying: "There is nothing in our time more scarce than justice."
So what is the case in our present time, a time in which false desires are plentiful? We seek refuge in Allah from the misguiding trials.
2 - That you should use the finest and most appropriate words when discussing and debating with your brother, for Allah the Exalted has said: "And speak good to the people." [Soorah al-Baqarah 2:83]
Abud-Darda'a relates that the Prophet (SAWS) said: "There is nothing that will be heavier in the Believer's scales, on the Day of Judgement, than good character. Indeed Allah hates the wicked and the ill-mouthed person." [Abu Dawood]
3 - That you should discuss with your brother with that which is better, for that which is even more appropriate. Your guiding principle in this should be the truth and its clarification; it should not be to seek victory for your ego or your soul that invites towards evil. Your character in that which you utter should be one of sincerity. If however, the affair with your brother reaches the level of speculative argumentation, then give him the greeting of peace (salam) and remind him of the saying of the Messenger (SAWS): "I am a guarantor for a house on the outskirts of Paradise for the one who leaves of arguing, even if he is in the right." [Abu Dawood]
Al-Hafidh Ibn `Abdul-Barr mentioned that Zakariyyah ibn Yahya said: "I heard al-Asma`i saying that `Abdullah ibn Hasan said: 'Argumentation corrupts friendship and unties the strongest of bonds. The least harm it contains is strife, and strife leads to severing relations.'"
Ja'far ibn `Awf said: I heard Mis`aar saying, whilst addressing his son Kidam:
I present to you my advice, O Kidam; So listen to a father, compassionate to you. As for joking and argumentation, then leave them; They are traits I do not approve for a friend. Having tried them, I did not found them praiseworthy, Neither for a close neighbour, nor for a close friend.
The Pious Predecessors have left us splendid examples about the etiquette of differing; amongst them is what al-Bukhari and Muslim report from Husain ibn `Abdur-Rahman who said: I was with Sa`eed ibn Jubayr when he said: 'Who amongst you saw the shooting stars last night.' I replied: 'I did.'
Then I said: 'Not because I was praying at that time, but because I had been stung by a scorpion.' He said: 'So, what did you do?' I replied: 'I used an incantation (ruqya).' He said: 'Why did you do that?' I said: 'Because of a hadeth related to me by ash-Sha`bi.' He said: 'What did he relate to you?' I replied: 'He related from Buraydah ibn al-Husain who said: "There is no incantation, except for the evil eye or a sting."' Sa'eed said: 'He has done well in halting at what he has heard [of knowledge]. However Ibn 'Abbas related to us ...' [and he went on to narrate the hadeth]."
Look at this sublime mannerism from one of those who inherited knowledge from ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him. He was not severe, rather he was kind to him because he was acting upon what he had of the evidence. Then he explained to him what was better, but with a gentle rectification supported by the proof.
[Summarized from an article by Shaikh Salim ibn Salih al-Marfadi]