Maulana Wahiduddin Khan I Islam Today I 7 May 2005
Contrary to common belief, Islam does not teach confrontation. In fact, Islam teaches the principle of avoidance at all times.
If you happen to be in an open field when it starts to rain, you hasten to find shelter. This is not cowardice. This is realism. Similarly, when there is an earthquake, you immediately leave your home for an open space. This too is not defeatism, but an acknowledgement of the reality of nature. Where some difficulty arises between man and nature, the solution to the problem lies only in acknowledgment, not in confrontation.
The system of rains and earthquakes is part of the scheme of God. Man cannot change this. Man only has it in his power to devise strategies to save himself from harm. The only way to do so is to adopt the principle of avoidance and save himself from extinction. That is why in heavy rain you head for a sheltered place, while during an earthquake, you rush for the fields.
Patience and avoidance are not signs of cowardice or a defeatist mentality. They are simply realistic approaches. This is necessary because the Creator has given man freedom for the purpose of putting him to the test. Man sometimes makes the right use, sometimes the wrong use of his freedom. Even if you start fighting everyone, you cannot snatch away their freedom, as this freedom is given them by the very Creator of the universe. Efforts to deprive others of their freedom are futile and will result only in your own suffering.
In such a state of affairs there is only one possible attitude. And that is known as patience. That is, even when faced with bitterness and unpleasantness from others, you must continue your life’s journey by avoidance.
You should never feel that it is only up to others to practice patience and avoid friction. Patience and avoidance of strife are the social duties of everyone without exception. It should never be forgotten that while patience makes its possible to continue with life’s journey, impatience will ultimately prevent you from reaching your chosen destination.
Huzayfah relates a tradition that the Prophet once advised, “It is not proper for any Muslim to disgrace himself.” People enquired as to how someone might disgrace himself? The Prophet replied, “By challenging an evil he is not competent to fight with.” (Musnad, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, 4/405)
This Hadith of the Prophet reveals an important principle of Islam, that whenever, in a composite society, an evil or unpleasant situation arises, it is not prudent for the law-abiding man to have an impulsive confrontation with wrongdoers. Instead, he should decide pragmatically as to which of two options would be appropriate.
One is that he should see whether he has enough strength to fight the miscreants and compel them to desist from their wrongdoing. If so, he must fight with great determination so that the trouble is eradicated and social uplift becomes possible.
The second option is to make a cool and realistic assessment of the comparative strength of the two sides and if it is found that the odds are too great for any favourable result to be achieved through confrontation or that a disadvantage which initially had been insignificant could turn into a major setback, it will become necessary to adopt the policy of patience and tolerance, and avoid any confrontation with the wicked.
The policy of avoidance simply means refraining from wasting time and energy in a futile conflict. By following this course, one gains the respite to prepare oneself adequately for future action. It provides the opportunity to become so strong and dominant that no one would dare do any harm to one. In the event of attempted injustice, there would be enough accumulated force to effectively repulse any wrongdoer.
The approach of patience, tolerance and avoidance is undoubtedly one of the most important principles of Islam. (8.SS/9.95)
By temperament, all men and women differ from one another in many ways. Everyone has experienced the disagreeable situations, arising from such differences. In social life, be it inside or outside the home, it is but natural that unpleasantness should occur from time to time. This is unavoidable.
Now whenever any negative situation arises one way of dealing with it is a head-on clash, i.e. an attempt to solve the problem by direct confrontation. Such attempts are abortive as they only aggravate the problem. In no way will they improve matters.
Islam tells us that on such occasions instead of behaving violently and fighting, we should opt for the course of tolerance and forbearance; instead of combating violence with violence, we should adopt the policy of avoidance; remaining united in spite of differences.
According to Islam, it is not only a point of social behaviour but also an act meriting great reward. Living with people, and observing their principles are acts which would deserve a reward in normal circumstances, but when one continues to be well-behaved in spite of differences and grudges, by curbing negative sentiments, then the reward is increased manifold. God will count those who sedulously avoid friction among the possessors of a superior character.
For the human character to retain its superiority, therefore, there must be staunch and unceasing adherence to the principle of avoidance.
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