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Controversies vs. Arguments

A healthy society calls for healthy debate!

When we look into the lives of our esteemed scholars and Maraja Taqleed, we get a clear image of how controversies must be approached, which ones are to be taken seriously and which ones are not. Differences of jurisprudential issues exist on a very broad scale among our scholars, which are not only accepted but treated with honor and dignity. Unless the issue at hand involves blasphemy against God or a direct rejection and insult of Prophethood and Wilayat, we must not only be tolerant but take all measures against creating seeds of hatred and disunity. The sacrifices made by our Infallibles at every step of their lives to guard Islamic unity should be ample inspiration for their Shi’as to manifest such behavior in their daily lives.

A healthy society calls for healthy debate!

­Debates, disagreements, controversies, split views – no society is devoid of these phenomena. When controversies sprout in a society they can impact it in two major ways: either push society towards progression and advancement, or regress it to make it fall lower than its previous state. The ultimate fate of a society led by the rise of controversies is absolutely dependent on the method by which these disagreements are handled or dissolved by its members.

Our lives depend upon the little Islamic societies we thrive on, and many of our controversies revolve around Islamic precepts. The author’s humble knowledge and opinion compels her to think that there hasn’t been a single period of time in Islamic history wherein controversies and differences of opinion did not exist. Yet why is it that controversies arise? When do they become arguments? Where do we draw the line in order to avoid them? These are some serious questions to consider for followers of the most perfect religion blessed to mankind.

If Islam Is a Perfect Religion, Why Do Controversies Arise?

Islam is perfect, but Muslims are not. Lack of knowledge, varying intellectual capacities, differing experiences and changes in emotional states are some of the factors that become the breeding ground for controversies. The controversies that can potentially hamper our societies are those that become mixed with emotions.

Let us take an example of a scientific community, i.e. a community comprising of scientific researchers. Controversies and differing theories to scientists, referred to as paradigm shifts, are very normal and are in most cases taken at a constructive level to create a “scientific revolution” (the Copernican revolution, for example). Rarely do we see scientists bringing in their emotions into their research and making claims like “I feel global warming is happening, therefore it is” or “I have invested my heart and soul into my research, therefore it should be accurate.” A scientific community would fail if it based its decisions on emotional states of researchers.

If we would like controversies to take a constructive route, the first best thing for us is to take an objective approach by not letting our ego and emotions come in the way. Of course, we are human and emotions are inevitable, however there is a real necessity to block negative emotions and ill-feelings in order to allow for the progression of the Islamic society entrusted to us by the Imam of our time (may Allah hasten his reappearance).

When Does a Controversy Become an Argument?

An argument is the negative phase of a controversy that ultimately brings our society down; our Holy Infallibles (peace be upon them all) have sternly reprimanded us on repeated occasions to keep away from arguments. The Chief of Martyrs, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) has said, “Beware of controversy, because it discomforts the heart, gives rise to hypocrisy and creates ill will within the heart.”

Studying this hadith makes it evident that three factors make controversies dangerous: unease of the heart, the creation of ill feelings and sowing the seeds of hypocrisy. No matter how sincere our intentions are, if upon analyzing ourselves we feel unsure of slipping into any one of these three situations, we must take heed as our Imam has instructed and make every effort to avoid arguments bound to cause destruction. It is important to note that before damaging the society, arguments first cause destruction to our individual precious souls.

Sorting Out Controversies: Where Do We Draw the Line?

Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil is an obligation upon us all. However, unlike other types of religious obligations, these two are not unconditional; the obligation is lifted when we see the danger of dispute and enmity.

The best warner to mankind and the initiator of the act of enjoining good and forbidding the evil, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), has been told by the Almighty: “We have not set thee as a keeper over them, nor art thou responsible for them.” (6:107) Once we have carried out our duty of inviting people towards goodness following the Quranic method, we are not to stretch it further should it take the form of a distasteful argument!

When we look into the lives of our esteemed scholars and Maraja Taqleed, we get a clear image of how controversies must be approached, which ones are to be taken seriously and which ones are not. Differences of jurisprudential issues exist on a very broad scale among our scholars, which are not only accepted but treated with honor and dignity. Unless the issue at hand involves blasphemy against God or a direct rejection and insult of Prophethood and Wilayat, we must not only be tolerant but take all measures against creating seeds of hatred and disunity. The sacrifices made by our Infallibles at every step of their lives to guard Islamic unity should be ample inspiration for their Shi’as to manifest such behavior in their daily lives.

The Quran exhorts the believers: “Without doubt the believers are brothers of one another, so make peace and harmony between your brothers and have consciousness of Allah so that He may show you mercy.” (49:10)

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One comment

  1. Iran-Qom alhejrani@yah

    well done , article is good but the Conclusion is ambiguous.
    controversy in religious ideas is the most dangerous one , becuase everyone ascribe his idea to God .
    the only solution is knowledge

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