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Unity and peaceful co-existence in a multi-religious society: Islamic perspective

By Taofiq AbdulAzeez
03 October 2021   |   3:33 am
Unity and disunity are human and therefore global (Q3:103). What drive the natural unity of mankind to disunity are Faith and Leadership and what bring it back are also Faith and Leadership.


Unity and disunity are human and therefore global (Q3:103). What drive the natural unity of mankind to disunity are Faith and Leadership and what bring it back are also Faith and Leadership.  Al-Baqarah 2:213:

“Mankind was (of) one nation (before their deviation); then Allaah sent the prophets as bringers of good tidings and warners and sent down with them the Scripture in truth to judge between the people CONCERNING THAT IN WHICH THEY DIFFERED.

And none differed over the Scripture except those who were given it – after the clear proofs came to them – out of jealous animosity among themselves. And Allaah guided those who believed to the truth concerning that over which they had differed, by His permission. And Allaah guides whom He wills to a straight path.”

That is why Allaah commands Taqwah in relation to our common origin and fear of the wombs:
“O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from ONE SOUL and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allaah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allaah is ever, over you, an Observer” (An-Nisa’ Q4:1).

The implications of disunity are obviously crises which are basically evidences of our nearness to Hell and the way out is unity under a pious leader. “And hold firmly to the rope of Allaah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allaah upon you –  when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And YOU WERE ON THE EDGE OF a PIT OF THE FIRE, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided” (Aal-e-Imran Q3:103).

This Lecture is a Critical Discourse Analysis of Unity and Disunity as indices of the type of Leadership that exists in the society where either occurs. My paradigm shall be Fira’un and Musa;  Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the Jews and Christians and Umar and non-Muslims.

Unity is defined as the quality or state of not being multiple: the quality or state of being one, single, whole, or the same . Does it mean being one? Let’s look at the types of Unity. Unity is identified in three ways: compositional unity, conceptual unity, and gestalt unity. Variety is an opposing principle that supports and contrasts with unity by introducing dissimilar elements and ideas.

We have thus the following other types of Unity:  logical indivisibility, substantive or dynamic in- divisibility, allness, bare continuity, concatenation, harmony, adjustment, or order in the bare content, and kin-esthetic purpose. Unity is the principle of design that unifies all other principles within a piece of work, allowing each individual element to coexist with one another to form an aesthetically pleasing design.

Where do we need unity? We talk of Unity only where there is DIVERSITY. This is why we talk of Unity of mankind where we are as diverse as Allaah has created us. “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” (Al-Hujurat 49:13).

Is Unity of mankind desirable and achievable? No matter what your answer is, I believe that even if it is desirable, it is not achievable. Mankind cannot be “one, single, whole, or the same.”
Allaah says for example about common faith that could make mankind one ideological family: “And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed – all of them entirely. Then, (O Muhammad), would you compel the people in order that they become believers?” (Yunus 10:99).

What kind of Unity can we possibly achieve? We can only have the kind of Unity that the Prophet achieved in Madinah where: he allowed each individual element to coexist with one another to form an aesthetically pleasing design. This Unity recognizes three human elements. They are: Mentality; Attitudes and Sentiments based on fixated mindset. Allaah summarised these in one ayah: “Say, Each works according to his manner, but your Lord is most knowing of who is best guided in the way” (Al-Isra’ 17:84).

That is why the Shariah of Islam niether applied to the Jews nor to the Christians. Even when the Jews mischievously chose the Shariah, Allaah gave the Prophet options.

Causes and Manifestation of Disunity
Leadership and  Disunity: A study of Fira’un (Pharaoh). Leadership Deficit makes an unbelieving and tyrannical leader to divide, disunite and oppress the people. “Indeed, Pharaoh exalted himself in the land and made its people into factions, oppressing a sector among them, slaughtering their (newborn) sons and keeping their females alive. Indeed, he was of the corrupters” (Al-Qasas 28:4).

Emergence of a Pius Liberating Leadership escalates Disunity and induces violence and killings.

“And he entered the city at a time of inattention by its people and found therein two men fighting: one from his faction and one from among his enemy. And the one from his faction called for help to him against the one from his enemy, so Moses struck him and [unintentionally] killed him. [Moses] said, “This is from the work of Satan. Indeed, he is a manifest, misleading enemy” (Al-Qasas 28:15). But the Pius Liberating Leader is a human being who can and does acknowledge his weaknesses and limitations. “He said, ‘My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself, so forgive me,’ and He forgave him. Indeed, He is the Forgiving, the Merciful” (Al-Qasas 28:16).

And he has to be strategic and prayerful (Al-Qasas 28:16). He needs to avoid being used and be just towards the other disuniting faction. (Q28:17-24). He also needs to be a strong, trustworthy and hard-working family man (Q28:25-29).

Disunity leads to demand for sovereignty. “And Moses said, “O Pharaoh, I am a messenger from the Lord of the worlds. (Who is) obligated not to say about Allah except the truth. I have come to you with clear evidence from your Lord, so send with me the Children of Israel”(Al-A’raf 7:104-105).

This demand is always met first, with cajoling and then threat of, and actual violence. “Said the eminent among the people of Pharaoh, ‘Indeed, this is a learned magician.’ Who wants to expel you from your land (through magic), so what do you instruct?” (Al-A’raf 7:109 -110).

The consequent engagement of the establishment and its expert will lead to the defeat and submission of the expert to superior knowledge and faith (Q7:111-122). “And the magicians fell down in prostration (to Allah)” (Al-A’raf 7:120). “They said, ‘We have believed in the Lord of the worlds’ (Al-A’raf 7:121).

“The Lord of Moses and Aaron” (Al-A’raf 7:122).

The reaction of the Tyrant is violence and killings in defence of the commonwealth. “Said Pharaoh, ‘You believed in him before I gave you permission. Indeed, this is a conspiracy which you conspired in the city TO EXPEL THEREFROM ITS PEOPLE.

But you are going to know.’ I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides; then I will surely crucify you all” (Al-A’raf 7:123-124).

The people become more committed in response to the tyranny of the leadership. “They said, ‘Indeed, to our Lord we will return.’ And you do not resent us except because we believed in the signs of our Lord when they came to us. Our Lord, pour upon us patience and let us die as Muslims (in submission to You)” (Al-A’raf 7:125-126

The establishment becomes embarrassed and threatened. They react by mobilizing everyone against the oppressed people and their liberating leader. “And the eminent among the people of Pharaoh said,” Will you leave Moses and his people to cause corruption in the land and abandon you and your gods?” (Pharaoh) said, “We will kill their sons and keep their women alive; and indeed, we are subjugators over them”(Al-A’raf 7:127).

The oppressed become confused and they begin to compare the previous life of slavery with the imminent liberation. “They said, ‘We have been harmed before you came to us and after you have come to us.’ He said, ‘Perhaps your Lord will destroy your enemy and grant you succession in the land and see how you will do” (Al-A’raf 7:129).

The response of the liberating leader is to call for patience and prayers while he  stays with the people who are to be strategically prayerful. “Said Moses to his people, ‘Seek help through Allah and be patient.’ Indeed, the earth belongs to Allah . He causes to inherit it whom He wills of His servants. And the (best) outcome is for the righteous” (Al-A’raf 7:128)

The response of Allaah to the oppression of the people who want sovereignty is to overwhelm the society with social crises, famine and health challenges that lead to mass killing and death forcing them to seek divine intervention. “And We certainly seized the people of Pharaoh with years of famine and a deficiency in fruits that perhaps they would be reminded. So We sent upon them the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood as distinct signs, but they were arrogant and were a criminal people. And when the punishment descended upon them, they said, “O Moses, invoke for us your Lord by what He has promised you. If you [can] remove the punishment from us, we will surely believe you, and we will send with you the Children of Israel” (Q7:130-136).

• AbdulAzeez, Professor of Communication and Language Arts at the Department of English, University of Abuja, spoke at the 61st Independence Day Special Jumu’ah Prayer and Public Lecture on Thursday, September 30, 2021 at the National Mosque Abuja