This article originally appeared on the website of Idris Tawfiq. Republished with permission.
Some time back, the Russian foreign minister was interviewed by a British journalist on television. The journalist gave him a hard time, but the minister seemed able to give back as good as he was getting! He was asked if he thought relations between the United States and Russia had worsened over the last few years, especially since both countries seemed to be criticising each other a lot at the moment.
The foreign minister’s reply was very clever. He said that because of these criticisms, he thought relations between the two countries were actually better rather than worse because only real friends can offer constructive criticisms of each other.
It isn’t our aim here to talk politics or about relations between the world’s powers, but this incident is a good starting point for us to talk about relationships and about how we fit into the whole scheme of things. There are times in our lives when we don’t agree with others. We might disagree with members of our family. We might disagree with close friends. We might even find ourselves in disagreement with some teaching at the mosque or with the society in which we live.
This needn’t mean the end of the world. It just means that at times we just can’t agree, for a variety of reasons. It could be that we are just digging our heels in and being awkward — it does happen!
It could be that we are not really getting our own point across well and so we are being misunderstood. It could be that we don’t fully understand the other. The important thing is that disagreements need not signal the end of a relationship or a breakdown in communication. In fact, disagreements can often, in a strange way, strengthen relationships.
Take the first years of marriage, for example. After the rosy period of first settling down together, little things start to happen that can annoy us. We begin to realize that we haven’t married Mr Perfect or Miss World, and we begin to get annoyed and find ourselves arguing over things that really aren’t that important at all. This doesn’t mean the end of the marriage. It just means we are realising that there are two people involved here and we need a bit of give-and-take for the marriage to work.
If you want to paint the living room red and your spouse wants it white, the marriage need not break up. You have to come to a compromise. At other times, though, there are things you won’t agree on. You support one political party, for example, and your spouse supports another. You will have to learn to disagree, respecting what the other one wants. We don’t need to make our loved ones agree with us in everything for us to carry on loving them.
A real friend is someone in life who can disagree with you and yet still be your friend. A real friend respects who you are and loves you for who you are, but can still tell you things you might not want to hear.
Only a real friend can tell you how stupid you look in that particular outfit. Only a real friend can tell you what a fool you are being by behaving in a certain way. Only a real friend can tell you that you should be praying when you are not. We listen to what friends have to say because we know that when they criticise something we do, it is not an attack on us but a criticism of our behavior. Real friends are often the ones who can tell us what is staring us in the face. We don’t need to reject them if they disagree with us or hold a different point of view.
There are many occasions, then, when we have to admit that we don’t agree. After having tried everything, we need to accept that there are times when we just can’t agree all the time. This will happen in the family, with parents, or with brothers and sisters. It will happen with the broader issues of what is going on in society.
Sometimes we need to speak out against what we believe is wrong in our society, but we still need to respect the right of others not to agree with us. It may be that after a while our opinions begin to converge, either at home or in the broader community, and we realise that there isn’t such a big difference after all. The important word is respect. Our opinions deserve the respect of others, and we should give to others the same respect we are looking for.
As Muslims we should be the most caring nation. Six years after leaving Makkah, our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) signed a peace treaty, the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, with his enemies. This didn’t mean that he agreed with the idol worshipers or with what they believed, but that for the sake of Islam he was prepared to disagree with them for the time being. The treaty didn’t mean he became their friends, either. It just meant that it was wise to make peace despite their disagreements. In the Qur’an, Almighty Allah describes this peace treaty in the following terms:
“Verily We have granted thee a manifest victory. ” (Al-Fath 48:1)
The victory was peace. The Muslims didn’t set aside their differences with the Makkans. They didn’t pretend that all was well between them. They just admitted that there were big differences and they would leave them on hold for the moment, allowing Almighty Allah to solve them. This peace treaty, broken very soon by the Makkans, led the way to the conquest of Makkah.
So in our own lives there are times when we just can’t agree. We need to use these occasions to grow. We need them to become sure of what we really believe. We need them to develop relationships and to understand where we stand in the scheme of things. We are always attentive, as Muslims, to what our community is saying, and we take examples from the life of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
Disagreeing with others does not make us odd. It is quite normal and quite healthy, and it will lead us to be better people and better Muslims. Almighty Allah knows what is best for us. By trusting in Him we can’t go wrong.
Idris Tawfiq is a British Muslim writer and broadcaster.
All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]