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Dawah and Interfaith

A Comprehensive Fatwa Regarding Cooperation in Da’wah by Shaykh Haytham Al-Haddad


All praise is for Allah, Lord of the worlds and may peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his companions.

There are two matters that pull back and forth the practicing Muslim youth. The first is the sorry state and degrading position of their nation that they witness. In addition to this, they are unable to offer much in order to liberate this nation from such a predicament. In the event they are actually able to undertake some form of action, it remains an insignificant amount in relation to the enormous and overwhelming threats and challenges they so evidently experience. When they have the desire to expand the scope of their work to become more effective and swifter at producing results, they find that they must cooperate with those who oppose them. Such opponents may oppose them in major principles or in minor subsidiary matters.

Hence, many of these youngsters remain somewhat confounded by the mutual pull of these two pivotal matters: the benefit of working for Islam in an active and effective manner on the one hand and the harm of cooperating with opponents on the other. Indeed, the manifestations of this contradiction and bewilderment increase in accordance with the situations workers for Islam find themselves in. Nonetheless, irrespective of any given situation, the harm that returns to any one of them does not rise to the amount of damage that befalls the Islamic call [ da’wah ] and the future of the Muslims.

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This is a matter that requires a deliberate juristic examination and a clear engagement of the issue.

The magnitude of this problem increases in non-Muslim countries, especially with the ever-increasing attacks on Islam in both quantity and manner, and even more so since the events now known as the eleventh of September. In Britain, where in relative terms, Muslims are of a greater number and possess a longer history, second and possibly third generation Muslims have been raised. They enrol into British universities and many of them commence Islamic activities and undertake the call [ da’wah ] to Allah, Bestowed and Mighty He is. As with any society and country this gives rise to the birth of many Islamic organisations. Some are extensions of mother organisations that were founded in Islamic countries and others are entirely independent but are to some extent affected by the literature of the Islamic awakening in the Muslim East and have crystallised a conception specific to them.

In Britain, whose name has become coupled with that of the Unites States of America to form the two principal countries waging terror against Islam, these aforementioned facts merge to intensify the extent of the predicament.

Furthermore, there is another matter that deepens this crisis which is barely noticed by those who command positions of responsibility; as an expression of the justice we have been commanded to enact at all times as explained in the following ayah [translation of the meaning] “… and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety…” we are obliged to say that the measure of freedom enjoyed by Muslims in Britain is far greater than in many Islamic and non-Islamic countries. In fact, if one were to declare that the opportunities for da’wah in this country are barely present in most countries one would be truthful in speech. Bearing this in mind, as I have said, the crisis deepens. Since this leads one to conclude that is an inevitable duty to seize this opportunity before it disappears. Each day that passes, the da’wah loses out. With matters being as they are, a person becomes obligated to cooperate with opponents in light of this extraneous condition, which also compels him to place the disposition of interaction and cooperation before that of aversion and avoidance because of the fear for the lapse of the benefit and the incessant call for the requirement of that benefit.

The very nature of all this causes one who wants to work for Islam to raise his voice and say, ‘ Oh sensible people! Look at this affliction in which we live; nations have assumed battle positions against us from everywhere just as in the simile put forth by the Messenger, may Allah praise and send peace upon him. There is no doubt that this situation necessitates us to concentrate our efforts and unite with every worker for Islam, irrespective of the organisation he is affiliated to and the classification he is placed in ‘. However, no sooner has he finished his speech, his friend approaches him saying, ‘ But hold on, you want to work with whom? You want to engage in a collective effort with the innovator and deviant! Do you really want to participate in a joint action with such a party and such an organisation when they believe in this and that… ‘

A squabble ensues, an argument flairs up and the Islamic work which is ever so productive gulps down and swallows the torment and agony of neglect, especially with every new emergence of dawn that carries along with its rays, a new and fresh opportunity for Islamic work.

Many university students in Britain ask about this issue during a time a golden opportunity is before them to serve Islam and its followers in this country and they request guidance. This resulted in the following worksheet entailing a representation of the problem as viewed by these brothers.

The Problematic Issue

A brother engaged in da’wah in a university centre presented the issue as follows:

We are an independent group of students affiliated to various British universities. We have an unending weariness and discontent at the phenomenon of disunion and lack of cooperation present among Muslim students in universities and colleges. Because of this, we wanted to engage in an action in order to invite all the representatives of Muslim student societies to work side by side and form a single organisation for them, which would help solve some of the common problems faced by all Muslim students in our current time.

We intend to begin this project by establishing a website on the Internet specifically for all the Muslim student societies in London. This website will be a source of benefit for all Muslim students in universities and colleges.

Such an undertaking will require us to invite numerous Muslim student organisations which possess different teachings and methodologies including organisations of the Salafi, Ikhwan, Hizb at-Tahrir, Sufi, and Tabligh persuasions etc.

We know and understand that there are a number of problems that we may come across when trying to unite such organisations which follow different methodologies and concepts. However, we would like to know the verdict of the Shari’ah with respect to some of the issues facing us:

1) Is it possible to encourage those close to our beliefs and the Muslim masses to attend activities set up by such an umbrella organisation as long as such activities do not contravene established Islamic principles as opposed to matters that are open to ijtihad .

2) Is it possible to advertise all the activities of these organisations that adopt such orientations on the website that will be established by the umbrella organisation if the aforementioned condition is adhered to. This will enable us to create a united advertisement banner for the purposes of advertising to all the Muslims in London about current functions and activities.

3) Is it possible for us to sit, converse and hold discussions with all these organisations and their leaders on the common problems we face.

4) Is it possible to hold joint activities in which all the aforementioned organisations can collectively establish e.g., we are able to discuss problems faced by the majority of Muslim students here or that the speaker be from one of these organisations in order to discuss some of the topics viewed important by the speaker.

As you see brothers, there are a number of issues that are hanging but we desire to begin this project with passion and great effort in order to achieve long term objectives that will lighten this great disunion and present turmoil between students today.

Further, it should be known that we do not intend to substitute these organisations in Britain with this venture but we hope that we be seen as an example to be followed by all individuals affiliated to these organisations that it is possible to establish joint action and unite to work for the purpose of common Islamic objectives and to place differences aside for the sake of unity and Islamic brotherhood.

We would like you to convey your advice on this matter and to explain principles that should be known and observed by Muslim minorities and how to view our roles as Muslim students in this country. May Allah reward you with goodness.

This is how this problem was presented and in response the following worksheet resulted

All praise is for Allah, Lord of the worlds and peace, blessings and praise be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his companions.

Before I begin, we beseech Allah to crown your efforts with success and agreement with what He loves and is pleased with.

Prior to delving into the elaboration of the difficulties of this thorny issue, we have to present some significant ground rules that must be considered when researching this issue since they provide the foundation to a proper conception of this issue; thereafter a judgement and explanation of how to interact with this matter can ensue.

1) It is a must to remind ourselves of the crucial principle concerning Muslims: that they are to be a single nation. There are numerous and concatenated evidences that substantiate this; Allah, the exalted and mighty, said [translation of the meaning], ‘ And verily this nation is one nation and I am your lord so worship me alone ‘.

It is for this reason that the issue of the main body of the Muslims [ jama’ah ] and adhering to it is among the greatest fundamentals advocated by the Shari’ah . Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy upon him, said: “This great fundamental, which is to hold fast altogether to the rope of Allah and not to split, is one of the supreme fundamentals of Islam. The instruction of Allah regarding it in his Book is momentous. Likewise, the censure of those of the people of the Book and others who abandoned it is grave. In addition, the directive of the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, concerning it as immense, in general or specific places, such as his saying, ‘ Adhere to the jama’ah, for indeed the Hand of Allah is with the jama’ah ‘…The door to the corruption which afflicted this nation and in fact, other nations, is splitting and differing. This emanated from their leaders and scholars to their kings and sheikhs to such an extent that only Allah is aware of, even though, for a portion of this, a person would be forgiven for their ijtihad in situations when one is forgivable for erring or because of one’s good deeds that erase [bad deeds] or on account of repentance etc. Nonetheless, it should be known that observing and complying with this fundamental is one of the greatest principles of Islam.” [1]

If this matter becomes clear, every means that leads to the coming together of Muslims and their unity is mandatory. This is a matter in which there is no difference among the ummah .

2) Another fundamental principle is the obligation of cooperation among Muslims; Allah says “ And help one another in righteousness and piety ”. Hence, in the very least of circumstances, cooperation is legislated in everything that truly fits the designation righteousness and piety , regardless of whom one is cooperating with since those being addressed in the ayah are general. Indeed, the writings of some of the scholars of tafsir indicate the address in this ayah to be universal to all creation, both Muslim and kuffar . A multitude of proofs combine on this issue and the Companions and Imams of Islam acted in accordance to this. Accordingly, scholars of Islam affirmed the obligation of performing Jihad with a righteous and unrighteous person. Muslim scholars performed jihad with kings and sultans despite the fact that some sultans were involved with innovations and so on.

3) There remains here a problem concerning the issue of cooperation about which many brothers enquire: cooperating with people of innovation and disobedience e.g., cooperating with the Ash’aris, the Sufis etc. The correct sense of duty emerges from contemplating the noble ayah ; cooperation becomes lawful for whatever truly fits the expression righteousness and piety . If there is a combination of righteousness and transgression, the verdict lies in favour of whichever of the two is dominant. Subsequently, if the benefit derived from cooperating is greater than the harm that occurs from this cooperation, it is legislated and vice versa.

Take as an example, the alliance of Muslims, those who are righteous and the unrighteous, those following the Sunnah as well as those afflicted with innovations, in order to repel the transgression of the kuffar . The benefit of this is without doubt greater than the harm of righteous Muslims mixing with unrighteous ones or Muslims following the Sunnah mixing with those practicing innovations. It is for this reason that Muslim scholars affirmed this and declared it an integral part of the belief of Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jamaa’ah. ( The same is said for the unison of these Muslims when giving da’wah to non-Muslims, rebutting their misconceptions or repelling their falsehood. Da’wah and jihad are a doublet; the reasoning behind the verdict in both cases is one and the same, not to mention that it is mandatory to heed the benefit if it prevails over the harm.

It does not go without saying that the matters deemed forbidden by the Shari’ah found in much of the occasions of cooperation with those afflicted with innovations and disobedience is none other than the disagreement to the principle of boycotting people of innovation and disobedience and this opposition disappears on applying the governing guideline of benefits and harms; the ruling lies in favour of whichever of the two is dominant.

One must understand that boycotting between Muslims is an arbitrary matter and not a fundamental tenet and it is not possible for something subsidiary to contradict a fundamental principle or counter it. Further, the enactment of this arbitrary matter is conditional to achieving the type of benefit that is not to have an adverse impact on the tenet. If therefore, boycotting leads to the contravention of the bond of Islamic unity it is prevented and is not regarded permissible until a time the Shari’ah and intellect witness that its benefit is greater than its harm.

4) Primarily, Muslims should name themselves with the name of Islam, Allah, the might and exalted says: “ It is He who has named you Muslims both before and in [this Qur’an] ”. As for these names and labels, even if we are to permit its usage, it is impermissible for them to be a reason for division of Muslims. Neither are they allowed to be a cause for instating them as objects of allegiance and disavowal whereby some Muslims align themselves with others according to such labels, declaring, ‘we offer allegiance to whoever is from our group and disavow those not of us’.

In light of this, the basis is for everyone affiliated to these organisations to cooperate in anything that truly fits the designation righteous and piety , thereby carrying into effect His saying “ And cooperate with one another in righteousness and piety and do not cooperate with one another in sin and transgression ”.

5) The basic principle governing relationships between a Muslim and another involved in innovation or disobedience is that he is to be offered love, support and allegiance [ wala’ ] according to the level of his obedience and that one disavows himself from his innovation and disobedience in accordance with the Messenger’s saying: “Assist your brother, if he be the oppressor or the oppressed.” He was asked, ‘How do I assist him whilst he is an oppressor? He replied, ‘You prevent him from his committing his oppression; that is assisting him.” [2]

Assisting an oppressive Muslim takes the form of commanding him to do good and forbidding him from committing evil. This oppression that he is characterised with does not nullify the basic level of wala’ granted to him because apostasy is the only matter that nullifies this basic level of wala’ .

6) Cooperation between Muslims never negates the commandment of good and forbiddance of evil. They in fact necessitate one another. It is impermissible to cease commanding good and forbidding evil under the pretence of calling for unity and cooperation with Muslims. Muslims throughout the ages were one nation possessing love and brotherhood for each other. At the same time, they used to command one another with good and forbid each other from evil, Allah, the mighty and exalted, says “ You were the best nation ever raised up for humankind; you command the good, forbid the evil and you believe in Allah ”.

Commanding good and forbidding evil should not be viewed in a different light as just explained such as showing it to sever the unity of Muslims or that it is only a superfluous and recommended matter and should not be paid much attention when there are more pressing things to deal with. What is allowed is to delay commanding the good and forbidding evil or to remain silent in order to meet a correct and valid Shari’ah purpose. Scholars have affirmed that one must refrain from forbidding evil if it results in a greater evil, this again returns back to the governing principle of benefits and harms.

In short, there is no contradiction between these three fundamentals: the unison of Muslims, cooperation between them in righteousness and piety and then commanding each other with good and forbidding each other from evil. If a Muslim puts these three pillars into motion the truth will become manifest to him by the will of Allah.

Establishing an Islamic activity for the purposes of da’wah to Allah in which individuals from various Islamic organisations participate is undoubtedly one of the most obligatory duties as this leads to the accomplishment of this tremendous duty, the duty of giving da’wah to Allah, which is the inheritance of the best of creation, Allah’s Prophets and Messengers, especially in kuffar lands. This also causes agreement between the Muslims.

As for the claim that establishing such an activity may compel those in charge to advertise activities undertaken by other organisations that are not Salafi and that some brothers contest this alleging that this entails advertising methodologies of other deviant organisations, this matter requires further analysis and elaboration:

1) Firstly, one has to say that is unjust to describe Islamic organisations with deviation or innovation simply because they do not adopt the name of Salafiyyah. Conversely, it is also unjust and unfair to commend organisations simply on the basis that they adopt the name of Salafiyyah.

All of these groups have positive and negative qualities and a mixture of truth and falsehood. If they had nothing but falsehood they would be out of the fold of Islam and likewise, it is not possible for them to have nothing but truth since this is a description of perfection and is not befitting for any single human being or group. Therefore, the description lies between perfection and the most perfect and being close to the truth and the closest.

It is natural for anyone affiliated to a group to allege that he is closer than others to the truth but I do not intend here to delve into this matter i.e., which of them is closer to the truth, since it is not prudent to generalise the discussion when desiring to appraise these organisations. It is also a matter that has been ruminated to a great extent, so the benefit in that would be limited and knowledge lies with Allah.

2) As for the claim that the organisations which assume the name of Salafiyyah are upon the pure truth, this is also unjust and inequitable. The word Salafiyyah is a term that encompasses everything the righteous predecessors were upon in belief, worship and in character and mannerisms, whereas you find some Salafi organisations have divided within themselves and each group now claims it to be on the truth and the others to be upon falsehood. Either all of them are upon the truth which is impossible since truth is not open to contradictory differences or one of them is upon the truth and the rest are upon falsehood whilst at the same time adopting the name of Salafiyyah. It then becomes established that the mere adoption of this name is insufficient as far as true affiliation to this dignified description is concerned.

Furthermore, many of these organisations that adopt the Salafi title enter into Salafiyyah via the doorway of adhering to some of the apparent Sunnan but at the same time exit Salafiyyah via a number of doorways. The first of these is their endeavour to divide and form censured partisanships even if they claim there is no partisanship involved, the reality however bears witness to that: the split of Muslim gatherings, the severance of the unity that had once united them, and the mass account of categorising and labelling each other as transgressors and innovators even in issues open to ijtihad. This is in addition to the lack of observance of mannerisms and proper Islamic character when dealing with opponents and so on.

With regard to the other organisations, the affiliation of its individuals to these groups does not necessarily imply their agreement with the mother organisation in all its beliefs. It is from the bounty and favours of Allah that the Islamic world witnesses a wide-ranging resurgence to Islam and a specific resurgence by the return of many Muslims to the methodology of the pious predecessors. This is also true for individuals within various Islamic organisations; many of them despite being affiliated to their group by the grace of Allah follow the methodology of the righteous predecessors in many aspects. This differs from one country to another and one time to another.

Consequently, with regard to advertising activities hosted by various Islamic organisations and participating with them, it is not permissible to judge the matter by the mere name of these organisations; rather one must examine it in detail. If the matter entails a preponderant benefit it is legislated and vice versa.

After this clarification, we comprehend that this aforementioned elaboration revolves around the issue of harms and benefits. Indeed, the religion in its entirety revolves around this. In fact, all the laws legislated by Allah for His creation since its inception to the time of our Prophet Muhammad, may Allah send peace and blessings upon him, revolves around this.

You will also discover that if you refer these issues back to the texts of the Book and Sunnah in light of the absolute principles of the Shari’ah and amongst these is the principle of harms and benefits, you will find these issues clear upon contemplation, there being no difficulty whatsoever and all praise is for Allah.

The difficulty arises however on account of certain matters inherited by some du’at from former generations who were new to these organisations; the latter du’at did not renew any contemplation or examination of these matters under the scrutiny of the Shari’ah and reality.

The reason for this as affirmed by our scholars is ignorance or desire. Whatever the case maybe, it disappears with the acquisition of knowledge through questioning scholars who are known to be free of these matters and who earnestly seek the truth and it also disappears through the making one’s speech, action and belief purely and sincerely for Allah and a manifestation of this is to place forward the loftier benefit of Islam and Muslims above personal benefits, partisanship and anything else.

There remains a point which may serve to conclude this paper. A matter that may further help establish this cooperation is to avert differing by every means possible. On occasions, differing can be averted by avoiding it and the best thing that can lead to an avoidance of differing in such situations is the implementation of the principle that states that the abandonment of differing is recommended. If some du’at differ in establishing an activity and their difference is that some view all or some of the activity to be permissible and others view it to be impermissible, the avoidance of differing is achieved by refraining from pursuing the activity as long as the position of those who advocate its impermissibility is not anomalous or weak.

An example of this is if some brothers desire to establish an activity in which a woman appears among a mixed assembly of people without wearing lawful hijab, there is no doubt that applying the principle of ceasing to differ calls for the abandonment of such an activity. The basic ruling concerning viewing a woman is one of impermissibility so why should we choose to establish something that revolves around being either forbidden or permissible?

Similarly, if it is suggested to establish an activity in which musical instruments are played, there is no doubt that the obligation is to abandon this because listening to musical instruments at the very least of conditions is either forbidden or permissible, so why should we commit ourselves to such things?

This is what has been facilitated for me to write, we beseech Allah for assistance and correctness for all the Muslims and may Allah send peace and blessings upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his companions.

Your brother,

Haytham Al-Haddad

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  1. Yus from the Nati

    June 5, 2007 at 12:26 PM

    This is a good piece.
    This lightweight reminds me of a lecture of Ali Tamimi on the UK Salafis. by the way…if anybody listened to that lecture, does anybody know where to get a print of that essay by those students of knowledge Ali Tamimi mentions in the lecture?

  2. ibnabeeomar

    June 5, 2007 at 12:30 PM

    wa alaikum assalam,
    yeah you can find that entire essay translated here:

  3. Molly

    June 5, 2007 at 3:46 PM

    Salaam. Is there any way to enlarge the print a bit on this post. It’s difficult to read. Thanks.

  4. Abu Bakr

    June 5, 2007 at 5:20 PM

    Wa alaykum assalam

    how is it now?

  5. Molly

    June 6, 2007 at 2:59 PM

    Thank you Abu Bakr, it is now readable. :)

  6. Pingback: » Suhaib Webb’s “Departure” from “Traditionalism”

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