Written by Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin
Translation by Umm Hajar (ummhajar@gmail.com)

‘Unity government’ has become a hot term. I am not sure what it means exactly. Is it possible that it is just like before when ‘Islam Hadhari’ appeared out of nowhere and only much later did its definition was discovered? Whatever it is, as a Muslim, I will be extremely pleased and happy if Muslims can make amends with each other and together, look for ways to preserve the wellbeing of the ummah.

One who dislikes seeing Muslims reconciling with each other is like one who is possessed by satan because of a never-ending grudge or pointless fanaticism or unbounded prejudice. That sentiment is deemed as wicked unless he can prove that dispute among Muslims is more beneficial than harmony. Allah says (translated as):

“The believers are but a single brotherhood: so make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear Allah, that ye may receive mercy.” (Surah al-Hujurat: verse 10)

It used to be that the word ‘asabiyyah’ represents sectarian or racial fanaticism which always leads to squabble and fighting. These days, ‘asabiyyah’ manifests itself in a form of political party, association, jamaah and various other form of fraternity. Consequently, driven by the sectarian fanaticism, people are ceaselessly in dispute with each other. The Prophet s.a.w said:

“…One who fights under the banner of a people who ate blind (to the cause for which they are fighting. i. e. do not know whether their cause is just or otherwise), who gets flared up with family pride, calls, (people) to fight for their. family honour, and supports his kith and kin (i. e. fights not for the cause of Allah but for the sake of this family or tribe) -if he is killed (in this fight), he dies as one belonging to the days of Jahiliyya”. (Reported by Muslim)

In a narration whose sanad (chain of narrators) is weak but is supported by the previous hadith, the Prophet s.a.w said:

“Whoever calls for ‘asabiyyah, fights for the sake of ‘asabiyyah and dies because of ‘asabiyyah is not belonging to us.” (Reported by Abu Daud)

‘Asabiyyah disease is present not only in the form of Arab or Persian or Malay racism but it also manifests itself in the form of political parties that are established under the name of democracy these days. Principles and sanity evaporates into thin air only because of fanaticism for a certain political party or hatred towards the opposing party. It is to the extent that even those who supposedly fight for the cause of the Arabs or the Malays can link up with other people to subjugate their own race.

Similarly, those who claim that they are fighting for the cause of Islam are willing to work with the non-Muslims to go up against Muslims. Even more, some self-proclaimed ‘nationalists’ stoop to disgracing their own race only because of political disagreement. Likewise, some quarters who are supposedly Islamists are inclined to befriend a socialist capitalist, and even the anti Islamic state, but get aggravated when they are asked to make amends with Muslims. Political parties have molded a form of ‘asabiyyah that is upsetting and detrimental to Muslim brotherhood.

I truly hope that Muslims in this country will move away from thinking only about the interest of their party and instead, start thinking about the wellbeing of the ummah which is of much bigger importance than their party. The Prophet s.a.w praised al-Hasan bin ‘Ali because he performed a deed that caused the dispute between the supporters of Mu’awiyah r.a and the supporters of ‘Ali r.a to cease. Abu Bakra r.a said, “Once while the Prophet was addressing (the people), Al-Hasan (bin ‘Ali) came and the Prophet said, ‘This son of mine is a chief, and Allah may make peace between two groups of Muslims through him.” (Reported by al-Bukhari)

The prophecy in this hadith became a reality when Saiyyidina Hasan voluntarily relinquished the top government post and handed it over to Mu’awiyah after his father, Saiyyidina ‘Ali, passed away. Following that, Mu’awiyah took complete control of the government and Muslims labeled that year as ‘year of reconciliation’. (Ibn Kathir, Al-Ba`ith al-Hathith, pg. 177, Beirut: Dar al-Fikr). In addition to that, Mu’awiyah himself wanted the Muslims to benefit from harmony. He said, “Who will care for the Muslims (if their fathers are killed)?” (Reported by al-Bukhari.

In commenting this hadith, Ibn Taimiyyah stated: “The Prophet s.a.w praised al-Hassan for the reconciliation that he did and named him as sayyid meaning ‘chief’. This was because Allah and His Messenger liked and blessed his action. If the war that occurred among the Muslims was commanded by Allah and His Messenger, surely the Prophet would not praised the reconciliation done by al-Hassan. If war was commanded by Allah and His Messenger, by stopping it, it meant that al-Hassan had abandoned his duty or disregarded an act that Allah favored. This hadith is clear evidence that proves al-Hassan’s accomplishment was praiseworthy.” Ibn Taimiyyah, Al-Khilafah wa al-Mulk, pg. 84).

In Malaysia, we do not expect for the Muslim political parties to hand over their authority to each other. Yes, we need to have a strong balance of authority between the government and the opposition. Our hope is for them to be able to sit at the same table to discuss the wellbeing of the ummah especially on issues that are specific to the Muslims. Isn’t there any common point of interest between UMNO and PAS on specific issues? It is acceptable for us to have different opinions and even to argue but there has to be a common point of interest when it comes to issues that involve the wellbeing of the ummah and the nation. The line of thought must be established on the foundation of nas (religious texts) and ukhuwwah islamiyyah (Islamic brotherhood) while fanaticism that traps people in partisan confinement must be restrained. Islam is not just about politics. Islam also comprises of akidah (faith), akhlak (personal manner), economy, education and many more. In a critical time like this, doesn’t any one of them reserve a few of their precious breaths to spend it thinking about the wellbeing of the ummah on issues that are specific to us? If UMNO and PAS are able to sit with the groups that adopt different principles and different cause of struggle in an amicable and pleasant manner, isn’t there any room for them to sit together? We shall be concerned about what the Prophet s.a.w said:

“Allah hates the most a person who is obstinate when arguing” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

That is the reason why, when I was having a long talk with Tun Abdullah in London two weeks ago, I suggested that UMNO and PAS sit together to discuss issues outside of the political theme. Try to learn to understand each other and do it for the sake of Allah and not for the sake of party.

They may have a bad record of reconciliation effort experienced in the past but time and generation has changed. What we have today is not the same as yesterday. Today, people are more mature whereas the situation is getting more critical. The discussion shall no longer start off with issues on power but it shall be centered upon the wellbeing of the ummah. Blessing will come if there is a genuine sincerity. Allah will reveal to us the path that leads to goodness. When an enemy of Islam wishes to reconcile, we are commanded to accept it. This command is even more applicable if the reconciliation is among Muslims.

Allah says (translated as):

“But if the enemy inclines towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah for He is one that heareth and knoweth (All things).” (Surah al-Anfal: verse 61)

Some people say that the reconciliation among the Muslim political parties will cause ‘others’ to be victimized. I am puzzled by that statement. Every time we have two groups sitting together for a discussion, does it always mean that other group will be victimized? If it is a Muslim making that statement, I think that he can be likened to the followers of Abdullah bin Saba who instigated the battle between ‘Ali and ‘Aishah. When they saw that ‘Ali and ‘Aishah was going to reconcile, they set off a surprise attack that dragged the Muslims to fight with each other.

Ibn Kathir (deceased in 774 H) stated that when those who were involved in ‘Uthman’s assassination, specifically the rebels, heard about ‘Ali’s decision to reconcile with ‘Aishah, they became worried. They discussed it among them and said, “They have reconciled at the price of our blood”. They meant that the reconciliation implied that weapons would be then be directed towards them. They continued discussing it until ‘Abdullah bin Saba suggested that they spark off a fight so that the battle would still occur. Before dawn, they attacked both the armies of ‘Aishah and ‘Ali simultaneously causing both sides to think that the other side had broken their promise. ‘Aishah’s army said, “’Ali’s army has attacked us!” whereas ‘Ali’s army said, “’Aishah’s army has attacked us!”. Thus, the Battle of Jamal took place and caused so many casualties among the Muslims. (al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah 7/249, Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah).

As stated by Winston Churchill: “History repeats itself because no one was listening the first time”.