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Accepting Opposing Opinions

Prof. Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Alsoheem



To accept different opinions from those who share with you the same belief, creed or nationality and to be tolerant with them, even if they are unfair or ignorant, is normal. However, dealing with enemies with a similar attitude can be reached only via adherence to Divine legislation. Islam introduces the most perfect and most tolerant model in dealing with opposing opinions, and there are a lot of Qur’anic verses and Prophetic traditions which give us guidelines for dealing with opposing opinions and being tolerant with them.


Islam guides us to be fair and just with enemies, even if they are unfair and unjust. Allah says: “Let not the hatred of some people in (once) shutting you out of the Sacred Mosque leads you to transgression (and hostility on your part). Help one another in righteousness and piety, but don’t help one another in sin and rancor. Fear Allah, for Allah is strict in punishment.” (Al-Maidah, 5:2) This verse, which contains great and correct guidelines, was revealed to the Prophet (PBUH) just after the pagans of Makkah prevented him and his companions from performing pilgrimage. No one can deny the greatness of this Divine guideline which urges the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions to act with justice and fairness and to avoid letting hatred of the enemy lead them to transgression. The verse is sealed by the command to fear Allah, and reminds us that Allah is severe in punishment. In explaining this verse Ibn Jarir said:


“You believers shouldn’t let the hatred of a people for having obstructed you from the Holy Mosque lead you to transgress and violate the orders of Allah, but you should obey Allah in all matters, whether comfortable or detestable.” [1] This adherence to justice with the enemy doesn’t mean responding to them with servility or submission since Allah legislated fulfilling the rights, and urged for forgiveness, as previously discussed in the “Justice" section. While Islam urges Muslims to deal fairly with enemies, it also urges them Muslims to guide others to the right way (Islam) in order to share the great interest which Islam has brought to mankind as the religion to all humanity. The message of Islam isn’t limited to a certain nation or a race. Allah the Almighty has ordered his Prophet (PBUH) to: say: “O men! I am sent unto you all, as the prophet of Allah” (Al-A'raf, 7:158).


Unlike Christianity, Islam’s message is universal, which means it isn’t limited to a nation or a race. The Bible tells us about the story of the woman who came to Jesus (PBUH) to heal her daughter: “The woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about [Jesus], and came and fell down at his feet. The woman was a Greek, by race a Phoenician from Syria, and she started asking him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He responded to her by saying: ‘Let the children first be fed, since it isn't good to take bread out of children's mouths and throw it to the dogs!’ (Mark 7:26-27) Also: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6).


These texts indicate that the message of Jesus was dedicated to the children of Israel, and that its message wasn’t universal. This issue was confirmed by Matthew, when he said that the message of Jesus was confined to certain people: “These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 10: 5, 6).


Islam urged us to be patient with opposing opinions, and to act with tolerance, no matter how unreasonable the other opinion seems. The best proof for this is the situation that happened between the Prophet (PBUH) and the Jewish rabbi Zaid Ibn Su'na, when he displayed extreme foolishness in acting with the Prophet (PBUH) in front of his companions. To understand how foolish this is, consider that the Prophet (PBUH) was the head of the Islamic nation, and the aggressor belongs to a different nation and a different religion, and that the Prophet (PBUH) reacted with extreme calm and an outstanding forbearance.


Abdullah Ibn Salaam narrated that when Allah decreed that Zaid Ibn Su'na should accept Islam, Zaid Ibn Su'na himself said, “When I looked at Muhammad, I recognized all the signs of prophecy except for two signs that I had not tested; (1) that his self-control should outstrip his anger and (2) that his tolerance should conquer a display of extreme foolishness” [2].


Zaid Ibn Su'na narrates further that the Prophet (PBUH) had just emerged from his room one day with Ali Ibn Abi Taalib, when a rider who appeared to be a bedouin came to him. He said, "O Prophet Muhammad, a few people from a certain tribe have accepted Islam because I told them that they will receive abundance in sustenance if they accepted Islam. However, no rain has fallen and they are afflicted by a drought. O Prophet Muhammad I fear that they may leave the fold of Islam out of greed, just as they had entered out of greed. If you agree, we could perhaps send them something to assist them".


Zaid Ibn Su'na said, Prophet Muhammad looked at the person beside him whom I assume was Ali. He said, “O Prophet Muhammad I don’t think that anything is left of that wealth.” Zaid Ibn Su'na approached Prophet Muhammad and said, “O Muhammad, do you wish to sell to me a fixed amount of dates from the orchard of a specific tribe (to be paid) before a specified term?” Prophet Muhammad replied, “Alright, but do not specify whose orchard it shall be.” Zaid Ibn Su'na agreed, and the deal was done. Zaid Ibn Su'na opened his purse and paid eighty pieces of gold for the specified amount of dates on a specified date. Prophet Muhammad handed over the money to the person and said to him, “Take this to assist them”.


Zaid Ibn Su'na narrates further that there were only two or three days left for the expiry of the term, when Prophet Muhammad left his home to perform a funeral prayer. With him were Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthmaan and several other companions. When they approached a wall to sit by, Zaid Ibn Su'na came to Prophet Muhammad and grabbed hold of Prophet Muhammad's collar. Staring angrily into the face of Prophet Muhammad, he said: “O Muhammad! When are you going to pay my dues? By Allah all that the children of Abdul Muttalib have learnt is how to procrastinate by mixing with you people, now I have first-hand knowledge of this!”


Zaid Ibn Su'na says that as he was doing this, his gaze fell on Umar. He noticed that Umar's eyes were starting to roll with anger and he stared with fury. He said, ‘O enemy of Allah, do you speak to Prophet Muhammad like that and treat him in this manner?


Had it not been for respect of being in the company of Prophet Muhammad, I would have cut off your neck.’ Zaid Ibn Su'na says that all the while, Prophet Muhammad looked at him in a most calm and unruffled manner. Prophet Muhammad then said to Umar, ‘O Umar! All that the two of us need is for you to tell me to pay him quickly and to tell him to place his demands in a better manner. O Umar go with him and give him his dues. Also give him twenty saa (weights scale - a standard measure that equals 3kg) of dates extra in lieu of the threat you gave him’ ”.


Zaid Ibn Su'na says that Umar took him along, paid him what was due and added another twenty saa to it. When Zaid Ibn Su'na asked Umar what the twenty saa extra were for, Umar said that it was the command of Prophet Muhammad because of the threat he had made. Zaid Ibn Su'na then asked, ‘O Umar do you recognize me?’ ‘No’replied Umar. Zaid Ibn Su'na said, ‘I am said Ibn Su'na.’ ‘The Rabbi?’ asked Umar. ‘Yes, the Rabbi,’ was the reply. Umar then asked, ‘But why did you behave as you did? Why did you speak as you did?’ Zaid Ibn Su'na replied, ‘O Umar when I looked at Muhammad, I recognized all the signs of prophecy except for two signs that I had not tested; (1) that his self-control should outstrip his anger and (2) that his tolerance should conquer a display of extreme foolishness. I have now tested both these attributes. O Umar I make you witness to the fact that I am content with Allah as my Lord, with Islam as the true religion and with Muhammad as my prophet. I also make you witness to the fact that I give half of my wealth - and I am one of the wealthiest people - as charity to the entire ummah (nation) of Prophet Muhammad.’ Umar said, ‘Say that it is for a part of the ummah because you will be unable to give to all of them.’ ‘Alright,’ said Zaid Ibn Su'na, ‘then for a part of the Ummah.’ Umar and Zaid Ibn Su'na then returned to Prophet Muhammad and Zaid Ibn Su'na exclaimed, ‘I testify that there is none worthy of worship but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's servant and prophet.’ He therefore accepted belief and pledged his allegiance to Prophet Muhammad. He participated in many expeditions with Prophet Muhammad and was eventually martyred during the expedition to Tabuk, as he was advancing and not retreating. May Allah shower His mercy on Zaid Ibn Su'na” [3].


Another case that shows the Prophet’s (PBUH) tolerance and forbearance is the case of Abdullah bin Ubai Ibn Salol (the chief of hypocrites) who betrayed the Prophet (PBUH) in the battle of Uhud and retreated with one third of the army [4]. Nevertheless, when he died, the Prophet (PBUH) offered him the funeral prayer, and asked Allah to forgive him. Ibn 'Umar narrated: “When 'Abdullah bin Ubai (the chief of hypocrites) died, his son came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Allah's Prophet! Please give me your shirt to shroud him in, offer his funeral prayer and ask for Allah's forgiveness for him.’ So Allah's Prophet (PBUH) gave his shirt to him and said, ‘Inform me (when the funeral is ready) so that I may offer the funeral prayer.’ So he informed him and when the Prophet intended to offer the funeral prayer, 'Umar took hold of his hand and asked, ‘Has Allah not forbidden you to offer the funeral prayer for the hypocrites?’ The Prophet said, ‘I have been given the choice, for Allah says: “(It does not avail) whether you (O Muhammad) ask forgiveness for them (hypocrites), or do not ask for forgiveness for them. Even though you ask for their forgiveness seventy times, Allah will not forgive them.’ (9.80) So the Prophet offered the funeral prayer and on that the revelation came: ‘And never (O Muhammad) pray (funeral prayer) for any of them (i.e. hypocrites) that die’ ” [5].


The Prophet (PBUH) gave his shirt to shroud 'Abdullah bin Ubai in, so that Allah might ease his punishment. See how merciful and tolerant the Prophet (PBUH) is, the man was already dead and could provide no harm or benefit to anyone, but the nobility of the Prophet (PBUH) drove him to forgiveness and tolerance. Books of prophetic tradition mention many such instances which show how the Prophet (PBUH) acted with nobility and tolerance towards a lot of disbelievers who previously fought and tortured him and his companions.


Muslims aren’t ordered only to be tolerant with opposing opinions, but are also ordered to help them and guide them to the right way. The Prophet (PBUH) spared no effort in guiding the disbelievers to the right way. Allah says: “You would only, perchance, worry yourself to death, following after them, in grief, if they believe not in this message.” (Al-Kahf, 18:6) And He says: “Is he, then, to whom the evil of his conduct is made alluring, so that he looks upon it as good, (equal to one who is rightly guided)? For Allah leaves to stray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills. So let not your soul goes out in (vainly) sighing after them: for Allah knows well all that they do” (Fatir, 35:8).


The following hadith shows how the Prophet (PBUH) was keen on guiding people to the right way. Anas narrated: “A young Jewish boy used to serve the Prophet, and he became sick. So the Prophet went to visit him. He sat near his head and asked him to embrace Islam. The boy looked at his father, who was sitting there; the latter told him to obey Abu-l-Qasim and the boy embraced Islam. The Prophet came out saying: ‘Praises be to Allah who saved the boy from the hellfire.’ ” [6].


This Divine approach in dealing with opposite opinions has a lot of great positive aspects, among which is that Allah urged the oppressed ones to forgive when they have the power to take revenge from the oppressor, if this forgiveness will make him (the oppressor) a better individual. Allah says: “The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah; for (Allah) loves not those who do wrong.” (Ash-Shura, 42:40) Allah also says: “And if you punish them out, punich them no worse than they did with you; but if you show patience, that is indeed the best (course) for those who are patient” (An-Nahl, 16:126).


When the Prophet (PBUH) returned to Makkah victorious and captured those who previously tortured him and his companions, forcing them to leave Makkah, he said to them: “What do you think I will do to you?” They said: “Good.” One of them said: “We say it is good and believe it to be good. You are a good brother and a good nephew, though you have power over us.” The Prophet (PBUH) said: “I will say to you what my brother Yusuf said: ‘No reproach shall this day be upon you, and Allah will forgive you. He is the Most Merciful of those who have mercy.’ (Yusuf 12: 92) Go, you are free”.


Adopting tolerance in dealing with opposite opinions goes to a further level, as Allah orders us to deal with others (who are disbelievers, and don’t fight against Islam) with good conduct. He says: “Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just.” (Al-Mumtahana, 60:8) Ibn Jarir said: “The best approach concerning this issue is: ‘Allah doesn’t forbid you to act kindly with those who are disbelievers, as long as they don’t fight against you’ ” [7]. The following example gives more clarification to this issue. Asma' bint Abu Bakr narrated: “My mother came to me during the lifetime of Allah's Prophet and she was a pagan. I said to Allah's Prophet (seeking his verdict): ‘My mother has come to me and she desires to receive a reward from me. Shall I keep good relations with her?’ The Prophet said: ‘Yes, keep good relations with her’” [8].


When studying the tradition of the Prophet (PBUH), one might find a lot of situations between him and the Jews and Christians of his time. All these situations indicate that the Prophet (PBUH) didn’t adopt prejudicial stances against Jews or Christians. On the contrary, the Prophet (PBUH) dealt with them very kindly. His servant was a Jewish young man. Also he (PBUH) used to trade with the Jews as previously mentioned in the story of Zayd Ibn Su’na, and he, the Prophet, (PBUH) died while his (iron) armor was mortgaged to a Jew [9]. It was narrated that Jewish rabbis used to come to the Prophet (PBUH) and discuss the Torah (the holy book of Jews) with him [10].


The Prophet (PBUH) never adopted a position towards Jews or Christians based upon their religions, since the religion of Moses, the religion of Jesus, and the religion of Muhammad are all identical in rules and fundamentals. This is because all the prophets of Allah (peace be upon them all) were sent to invite people to worship Allah only and to obey His orders. However, at the time of the Prophet (PBUH), almost all of the Jews and Christians had deviated from the core of their messages, so the Prophet (PBUH) had to fix this deviation and clarify the obscurity. Allah says: “But because of their breach of their covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard: they changed the words from their (right) places and forgot a good part of the message that was sent to them, nor will you cease to find them - barring a few - ever bent on (new) deceits: but forgive them, and overlook (their misdeeds): for Allah loves those who are kind. From those, too, who call themselves Christians, We did take a covenant, but they forgot a good part of the message that was sent to them: so We estranged them, with enmity and hatred between the one and the other, to the Day of Judgment. And soon will Allah show them what it is they have done.” (Al-Maidah, 5: 13-14) And consider His saying: “barring a few;” it means that they aren’t all involved in such things.


The following verses shows how Allah blamed them for their unlawful fighting against what is right, and their attempts to prevent people from following the right way. Allah says: “Say: ‘O People of the Book! Why do you reject the Signs of Allah, when Allah is Himself witness to all you do?’ Say: ‘O People of the Book! Why do you obstruct those who believe, from the path of Allah, seeking to make it crooked, while you were yourselves witnesses (to Allah's covenant)? But Allah is not unmindful of all that ye do. O you who believe! If you listen to a faction among the People of the Book, they would (indeed) render you apostates after you have believed! And how would you deny faith while unto you are recited the signs of Allah, and among you lives the Prophet? Whoever holds firmly to Allah will be shown a way that is straight’” (Al-e-Imran 3:98-101).


Tolerance has always been a characteristic of the Islamic approach, with Muslims and non-Muslims. Allah says: “Among the People of the Book are some who, if entrusted with a hoard of gold, will (readily) pay it back; others, who, if entrusted with a single silver coin, will not repay it unless you constantly demand it because, they say, ‘There is no call on us (to keep faith) with these ignorant (pagans).’ But they tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it.” (Al- Imran, 3:75) And He says: “Not all of them are alike: of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (for the right); they recite the signs of Allah all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration. They believe in Allah and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in performance) of (all) good works: they are in the ranks of the righteous. Of the good that they do, nothing will be rejected of them; for Allah knows well those that do right” (Al- Imran, 3:113-115).


After this presentation of Islam’s values and principles, a scholar should admit that no individual can comprehend all that Islam has introduced to humanity. Therefore, I would like to quote what Dr. Mohammad Abdullah Draaz has written as conclusion for his valuable book “Al Deen”: “Having studied Islam this far, a scholar can see that the Holy Qur`an isn’t a psychic image for some individual, nor a record of history, but it is a book for all mankind, no matter how different they are in races and languages. Anyone who seeks the right and the truth will find his purpose in this book. As Allah says: “And We have indeed made the Qur-an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition?” (Al-Qamar, 54:17) [11]”.




[1] Jāmi` Al-Bayān 28/66.

[2] Zayd Ibn Su’na knew prophetic signs as he read them in the Torah and the Bible, since the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was mentioned in the two holy books. A lot of Jewish and Christian scholars, who have converted to Islam, issued books identifying texts that mention the prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in the Torah and the Bible. These books include: Efham Al Yahood for Al Almagrebi, Al Deen w Aldawla for Ali Ibn Rabban Al Tabari, Tohfat Al Areeb for Anslam Tormida who converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdullah Al Turjman, Mohammad in the holy book for Abd Alahad Dawood. All those scholars were Jewish and Christians who then converted to Islam. 

[3] Al Ahadith Al Mukhtara 9/446-448, and Al Mustadrak 3/700, Al Hakim classified it as “Sahih”, Sahih Ibn Hibbaan 1/523, Al Sunan Al Kobra for Al Bayahki 6/52.

[4] Abd Al Razek classification 5/365, and Tafsir Al Quran Al Atheem 1/401. 

[5] Sahih Al Bukhari, hadith 4394, 4/1715. 

[6] Ibid, hadith 1290, 1/455. 

[7] Jāmi` Al-Bayān 28/66.

[8] Sahih Al Bukhari, hadith 2477, 2/924, Sahih Muslim, hadith 1003, 2/696.

[9]Sahih Al Bukhari, hadith 1963, 2/729.

[10]Sahih Muslim, hadith 2786, 4/2147. 

[11] Al Deen, p172.


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