Dealing with Conflicts between Two Muslim Groups

By Jamiatul Ulama Gauteng

Surah 49 – Al-Hujuraat – Ayah 9

 أَعـوذُ بِاللهِ مِنَ الشَّيْـطانِ الرَّجيـم
بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

وَاِنۡ طَآٮِٕفَتٰنِ مِنَ الۡمُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ اقۡتَتَلُوۡا فَاَصۡلِحُوۡا بَيۡنَهُمَا‌ۚ فَاِنۡۢ بَغَتۡ اِحۡدٰٮهُمَا عَلَى الۡاُخۡرٰى فَقَاتِلُوا الَّتِىۡ تَبۡغِىۡ حَتّٰى تَفِىۡٓءَ اِلٰٓى اَمۡرِ اللّٰهِ ‌ۚ فَاِنۡ فَآءَتۡ فَاَصۡلِحُوۡا بَيۡنَهُمَا بِالۡعَدۡلِ وَاَقۡسِطُوۡا ؕ‌ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ يُحِبُّ الۡمُقۡسِطِيۡنَ

Translation:

“And if two groups of the believers fight each other, seek reconciliation between them. And if one of them commits aggression against the other, fight the one that commits aggression until it comes back to Allah’s command. So if it comes back, seek reconciliation between them with fairness, and maintain justice. Surely Allah loves those who maintain justice.”

Commentary:

Linkage

In the foregoing verses the rights of the Prophet were set out. They also laid down the mannerism in which he should be treated. The verses prohibited any act that would annoy or hurt him. Now this set of verses [ 9-10] establishes the manners, mores, injunctions, and mutual rights and obligations to be observed in individual and social life. The common value of all these rules is to avoid causing any inconvenience to the members of the society.

Occasion of Revelation

The commentators have narrated several incidents as a background of the revelation of these verses. Among them is the clash that took place between two Muslim groups. It is not inconceivable that the totality of these incidents might have been the occasion of revelation. It is also possible that one of these incidents has been the cause of revelation and the other incidents, being similar, were also termed as the occasion of revelation.

Although the immediate addressees of this verse are rulers and those in authority who have the means to fight and wage war, [as stated by Abu Hayyan in Al-Bahr and preferred by `Alusi in Ruh-ul-Ma`ani] all Muslims are addressed in this verse indirectly to assist those in authority in this matter. Where there is no leader, ‘amir, king or president, the rule is that the two warring parties should be advised, as far as possible, to cease war. If this is not possible, common people are ordered to stay away from both warring groups: they should neither oppose nor aid any one of them.  [Bayan-ul-Qur’an].

Related Issues and Injunctions

There are several forms of mutual fighting between two Muslim parties:

[1] both parties are subjects of a Muslim government;

[2] neither of the parties is the subject of a Muslim government;

[3] one of the parties is the subject of a Muslim government, but not the other.

In the first case, it is compulsory for common Muslims to bring about an understanding between them and try to stop the mutual fighting. If they do not cease fighting by negotiations, then it is imperative for the Muslim ruler to take measures against them. If both parties cease fighting by the intervention of the Islamic government, then the laws of retaliation, retribution and blood-wit will apply. If they do not cease, then both parties will be treated like rebels. If one of the parties withdrew and the other persisted in oppression and transgression, then the persistent group will be treated like a rebel group. The obedient group will be designated as ‘Adil” (just). The detailed laws pertaining to rebels may be perused in books of Islamic law. Briefly, the law comprehends the following: Before fighting, their weapons must be seized and confiscated. Then they must be arrested and kept in prison until they repent. Neither in the course of fighting nor after fighting should their children be enslaved. Their wealth should not be treated like the spoils of war. In fact, their wealth will be held in trust until they repent. After repentance their belongings will be returned to them.

In the above verses, we come across the following directive:

فَإِن فَاءَتْ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا بِالْعَدْلِ وَأَقْسِطُوا
.

‘…So if it comes back, seek reconciliation between them with fairness, and maintain justice.’ [ 49:9]

It means that if the belligerent party ceases fighting, then do not only stop fighting but also think about eliminating the cause of war and mutual dissatisfaction, so that the heart-burnings may come to an end. All enmity and hostilities will thus cease and an atmosphere of brotherhood may prevail for all times to come. Since these people have fought against the Muslim ruler, it was possible that they would not be treated by him equitably. Therefore, the Qur’an lays stress on setting things right between them equitably and justly, so that the rights of no one are violated [Adapted from Bayan-ul-Qur’an with reference to Hidayah].

Ruling
If a very powerful group of Muslims revolts against the Muslim ruler, then it is necessary for the ruler to first hear out their complaint or cause of their dissatisfaction. If a doubt or a misunderstanding has arisen in their mind about some matter, it should be removed. If they show such cause on the basis of which it is permissible in Shari’ah to oppose a Muslim leader or ruler, like unjust behavior on the part of the government, it is essential for the general body of Muslims to assist the group, so that the leader or ruler may refrain from his tyranny, provided that his tyranny is proved beyond any shadow of doubt (Ibn-ul-Humam; Mazhari). If they cannot show any clearly legitimate reason for their dissatisfaction, revolt, disobedience, and waging war against the Muslim ruler, it is permitted for Muslims to wage war against the rebels. Imam Shafi`i (Rahmatullahi Alayhi) held that the Muslims should not initiate fight against the rebels unless they first start the fight [ Mazhari ]. This law applies when it is positively and unquestionably clear that the group is rebellious. However, if it is difficult to determine which group is rebellious and which is just, because each party has a valid Shari argument to justify its course of action, then the pros and cons of both parties may be weighed to determine the party that is “just” on the principle of probability. If the juristic argument of one party seems to someone more convincing, it is permitted for him to assist such a group. If someone cannot prefer the standpoint of any one of them, he should remain neutral, as it happened in the civil wars of the Battle of Camel and the Battle of Siffin when many noble Companions (رض) remained aloof.

Conflicts of the Noble Companions (Radiallahu Anhum)
Imam Abu Bakr Ibn-ul-`Arabi says that this verse of battle between Muslims covers all cases. It includes the case where both parties prepare for war on grounds of a principle of Shari’ah. Civil wars of the noble Companions (Radiallahu Anhum) were of this nature. Qurtubi, quoting this view of Ibn-ul-`Arabi, explains the actual situation of the Battle of Camel and the Battle of Siffin and gives guidelines for later generations of Muslims to follow in the light of the battles of the blessed Companions (Radiallahu Anhum) . This author has dealt with this subject in “Ahkam-ul-Qur’an” in Arabic and his Urdu book “Maqame-Sahabah”.The summary of the discussion given in that book with reference to Qurtubi (V.16, P.322) is as follows:

It is not permitted to attribute categorically, and with certainty, to any of the Companions that he was absolutely wrong in his action, because each of them acted according to his own Ijtihad. Their objective was to seek the pleasure of Allah. The Companions (Radiallahu Anhum) are all our leaders, and it is enjoined upon us that we should hold back our tongue from talking about their mutual differences, and always speak the best things about them. Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallams companionship is a highly honourable position which should not be violated. Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam has prohibited to revile them or talk bad about them, and informed us that they have been forgiven and that Allah is pleased with them. Besides, there is the Hadith regarding Sayyidna Talhah (Radiallahu Anhu) reaching us through several transmitting authorities that:

انّ طلحہ شھید یمشی علی وجہ الارض

“Talhah is a martyr walking on the face of the earth.”

If Sayyidna Talhah (Radiallahu Anhu) was committing a clear sin by going out to wage war against Sayyidna `Ali, (Radiallahu Anhu) he could not attain the high status of a martyr. In the same way, if his act might be regarded as a failure to perform his duty on the basis of a clearly wrong interpretation, he would still not attain the status of martyrdom. Martyrdom is attained only when a person is killed in obedience of Allah. Therefore, it is necessary to construe the matter of the Companions (Radiallahu Anhum) in terms of the principle mentioned above.

Another proof of this is available in authentic and well-established Ahaadith which are reported by Sayyidna `Ali (Radiallahu Anhu) himself where Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said: “The killer of Zubair is in Hell.” Furthermore, Sayyidna `Ali (Radiallahu Anhu) reports that Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said: “Give news to the killer of Sayyidah Safiyyah’s (Radiallahu Anha) son that he will be in Hell.” In the light of this we need to believe that Sayyidna Zubair and Sayyidna Talhah (Radiallahu Anhum) were not sinners or disobedient to Allah in the position taken by them in the battle. Otherwise Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam would not have referred to Sayyidna Talhah (Radiallahu Anhu) as a martyr, nor would he predict about the killer of Zubair (Radiallahu Anhu) that he would be in Hell. Also, he is counted among the ten who were given the glad tidings of attaining Paradise. Traditions relating to this subject have almost reached the grade of continuity [tawatur] and the Traditions are referred to as Ahadith mutawatir.

Likewise the noble Companions (Radiallahu Anhum) who did not participate in the battles on either side, cannot be regarded as defaulters because their behaviour, conduct and attitude in this matter was also based on their ijtihad, and Allah maintained them thus. Therefore, it is not proper in any sense of the word to curse them, to taunt them, to hold them as sinners, and to neglect their virtues, their struggles and their great religious stations. Some of the scholars were posed the question: what is your view regarding the blood that was shed in the battles that took place among the blessed Companions (Radiallahu Anhum)? They simply recited the following verse of the Qur’an:

تِلْكَ أُمَّةٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ ۖ لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَلَكُم مَّا كَسَبْتُمْ ۖ وَلَا تُسْأَلُونَ عَمَّا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٣٤
‘Those are a people who have passed away. For them what they earned, and for you what you earned. And you shall not be questioned as to what they have been doing. [ 2:134] ‘
The same question was posed to another scholar. He replied: “Allah saved my hands from being soiled with that blood. Now I will not soil my tongue with it.” He meant that he does not wish to make the mistake of categorically adjudging any one of the groups as the defaulter.

`Allamah Ibn-Fuwarrak (Rahmatullahi Alaih) says:
“Some of our colleagues feel that the example of the conflicts that took place between the noble Companions (Radiallahu Anhum) is like that of the episodes of conflict that occurred between Sayyidna Yusuf (Alaihis Salaam) and his brothers. They, despite their mutual differences, did not lose their status of wilayah and nubuwwah. The same principle applies to the matter of conflicts that occurred between the Companions.”

Sayyidna Muhasibi (Rahmatullahi Alaih) says: “As far as this bloodshed is concerned, it is difficult for us to say anything because there was a difference of opinion in this regard among the noble Companions (Radiallahu Anhum) themselves.”
When Hasan Al-Basri (Rahmatullahi Alaih) was asked the question concerning the wars between the noble Companions (Radiallahu Anhum) he replied:
“Those were fights in which the Companions were present and we were not. They knew all the circumstances and we do not know them. The matter in which the Companions are unanimous, we follow; and the matter in which there is difference of opinion, we observe silence.”

Sayyidna Muhasibi (Rahmatullahi Alaih) says:
“We concur with Hasan Al-Basri (Rahmatullahi Alaih) . We know that when the noble Companions meddled in any matter, they knew fully well why they were doing it. Our task is merely to follow them where they are unanimous, and where they differ we observe silence. We should not on our own introduce new ideas. We are assured that they must have exercised ijtihad and sought the pleasure of Allah. Therefore, in matters of religion they are all beyond doubt.”

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