Translated by Javed Iqbal
(Translator’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a lecture delivered by Shaykh Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi rahimahullah at the renowned Islamic seminary, Jamiah al-‘Ulum al-Islamiyyah, Allama Binori Town, Karachi, and in the presence of the late Grand Mufti of Pakistan, Mufti Wali Hasan Tonki rahimahullah. It highlights the dangers of overamplifying disputed issues, especially amongst the masses, whilst equally emphasising that calling for balance is not to be conflated with calling for a compromise in belief and practices, or burying important discussions altogether. May Allah grant us all the correct approach and understanding. Amin.)
We have a number of examples before us from Muslim history which serve as a big warning. If you read up on the countries where Islam declined and enemy forces overcame the Muslims, you will find a number of things from which lessons can be drawn in today’s era. One of them was severe discord between scholars (‘ulama), and the second was a lack of connection between the scholars and laypeople. The scholars’ personalities were not so influential as to be able to maintain respect for the religion and esteem for the scholars in the hearts of laymen.
On the basis of my study of history and close observation of the Muslim world, I can say that theological and political turbulence is extremely dangerous for this country. Religious groups are at loggerheads with one another. Certain discussions, which could have been had in an academic fashion, have been brought into the public, and on the back of them, disputing groups and opposing warfronts have come into existence. This is very dangerous.
I am associated to the same group as you, and my sentiments are exactly the same as yours. In fact, not only are our sentiments the same, but rather our elders raised the banner for which they were given many new labels, and they had to face severe difficulties and opposition. But if we lose the very earth beneath our feet, what will these buildings stand on?
Our elders sacrificed a great deal to preserve the religion in this land. If the need arose, they even accepted their mistake, and humbled themselves and stepped down. They said unreservedly, “Look, you take the upper seat, as long as the religion remains intact.”
This is the tradition of our elders, the tract of Shah Waliullah (May Allah have mercy on him) and those who follow his school in the Indian Subcontinent. You can discuss disputed issues freely in your study circles and academic settings, and write books on them, but do not put the whole nation in danger.
Whenever a new battlefront is set up and calls that manifest a superiority complex are made, another battlefront arises as a response, and the loud chants of “who can be better than us?” are raised therefrom. However, the work of all our elders was marked with humility, suspecting one’s own self, and with faith and expecting reward (ihtisab). Never did they claim to be the leaders, nor did they claim that it is only our group that has done everything or that we are the be all and end all.
This was how Shah Waliullah (May Allah have mercy on him) was; this was his pain; and this was his vision which changed the face of the Indian Subcontinent. You affiliate yourselves towards him. This affiliation requires that the selflessness and sacrifice this country requires be presented. And be very frank and say: “Alright! It is your achievement that is the greatest, but let us come together and save this nation.” In the current climate of dangers and fears, what scope is there for scholars to be fighting one another?
I say this whilst fully maintaining my beliefs. All praise is for Allah; I am not willing to give up even an iota thereof. Neither in acts of worship nor in the principles of belief are we willing to make any compromise. It is one thing to stick to your own practice, but it is another to make a public spectacle, use laymen as pawns and turn the whole country into a battlefield. We have a “Ya Rasulullah” conference in one place, and a “Muhammadur Rasulullah” conference in another place; [fighting over] such issues is not worth living for.
(Iftitah-i-Bukhari wa Khatm-i-Bukhari, pg 101-103) ((Adapted from Khutbat-i-Ali-Miyan))