Khalid Zaheer
“I am convinced about the veracity of my opinions, but I do consider it likely that they may turn out to be incorrect. Likewise, I am convinced about the incorrectness of the views different from mine, but I do concede the possibility that they may turn out to be correct.” — Imam Shafa’i
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Why Have Muslims been Fighting With Each Other ?

Question:
If Allah’s commandments are so clear in the Qur’an that killing anyone is like killing the entire humanity, why then did companions of the prophet, may God’s mercy be on him, fight the battles of camel and Siffin? Why couldn`t Iraq and Iran come together, despite being Muslims, to resolve their disputes peacefully? It confuses me a lot as to why Muslims in the early part of their history and in the more recent history have been settling their scores through battles and wars that kill.

Response:
Even if I respond by saying that I don’t know why they fought, it would be a perfectly legitimate answer, because while the Qur’an and the Sunnah are the standard of Islamic learning, the practice of Muslims is to be seen in the light of these two sources. What conforms to these teachings is acceptable and what doesn’t is to be considered a deviation from it. The teachings will remain unaffected by the violations of it by those who were expected to follow them.

It could be said in defense of the companions who participated in those battles that they had their own respective justifications for engaging in the battles. For the supporters of Ali, the fourth caliph, it was a case of fighting those who revolted against a legitimate Muslim ruler, which was one form of fitnah (mischief on earth). For the supporters of Ayesha and Mu‘awiyah, it was a case of fighting against the people who were supporting the killers of Uthman, the third caliph. They considered the fourth caliph and his army as participating in fitnah by siding with those who rebelled against the third caliph and killed him.

At the end of the day, it is the intention of each individual that would decide his fate. Apparently, all companions of the prophet acted in accordance with the voice of their conscience. The best attitude in that period of crisis was shown by those who, according to the advice of the prophet on such occasions, stayed away from participating in the battles. Those who fought probably either didn’t receive the prophet’s advice or thought that it was not relevant to the particular occasion of those battles.

As for the wars fought between Iran and Iraq, one has to see who was on the wrong. Ideally the rest of the Muslim Ummah, probably represented by the Organization of Islamic Countries, should have intervened to mediate for bringing them to peace in accordance with the directive of the following Qur’anic passage: “If two groups amongst believers fight each other, make peace amongst them. And if one of them transgresses against the other then you fight the one who has transgressed until it comes to Allah’s verdict. If it returns (to peace) then you mediate between them and (make peace) justly. And be (sure that you are) fair, for Allah loves only those who are fair.” (Qur’an; 49:9)

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