Elements of Unity

Sound Heart
God, the Immaculate, thus describes to the Noble Prophet how one should comport oneself in a scholarly or religious circle:
When those who have faith in Our signs come to you, say, “Peace to You”.1
The intermediate among those thus saluted by the Prophet simply hear his salutation, whereas the elite will hear God’s salutation through His Prophet. Thus God salutes the prophets, His friends, and the faithful.
God’s salutation is not verbal. This salutation is, rather, an effusion unto the sound heart. God’s word is His action; God’s salutation is His nurturing the sound heart. What is a sound heart? It is the heart that has unified its cognitive (darki) and emotive (tahriki) faculties. An unsound heart, on the other hand, is that which has lost control of these faculties.
One who fails to attain to inward unity will also fail in outward unity. If imagination roams unrestrained, lust and anger perpetrate what they will, and base faculties subjugate the intellect (“How many an intellect that is a slave to unruly desire”2), one is lost in confused thoughts, and one so lost cannot be a member of a unified community. One who fails to attain to unity is impotent: disorganized multiplicity is unprolific.

In this light, a sound heart is a heart that has unified its desires, impulses, and cognitions. And it is only after achieving this inward unity that one may legitimately advocate unity in the social sphere.
The Possibility of Unity
In spite of our various cognitive and emotive faculties, we are duty-bound to strive for unity and to prevent disunity. That God has created us as a multiplicity but has ordered us to strive for unity and to shun disunity indicates that unity is attainable and disunity avoidable.
But what must we do to be in harmony with one another and to form a unit? As Muslims, there are many methods available to us for attaining to this end. Islam warns us of the dangers of disunity and informs us of the advantages of unity, the factors conducive thereto, and the obstacles that hinder the achievement of unity.
Islam teaches us that unity is not something that could be produced by such conventional means as economic and military treaties, which may one day be ratified and one day invalidated. The consolidation that unity engenders is one which transcends agreements and contracts. The unity to which God exhorts us is not contractual; it is, rather, a unity rooted in our very existence.
Language, time, and ethnicity engender difference among human beings, but none of these are essential to humanity. Humanity springs from human nature, which is shared by all human beings equally. This is the inner unitive element. It is ever-active and enduring, for it is not the result of human convention; it is God’s creation:
There is no altering God’s creation.3
Human nature, which directs us from within, is unalterable:
that is the upright religion.4
It is human nature that defines humanity, not the colour of skin, not conventions, not habits. This inherent direction is so beautiful and effective that it remains unchanged; God leaves it unchanged, as it is the best constitution (95:4), and no other being is able to alter it. Hence, There is no altering God’s creation. All human beings possess this unitive nature, and the mission of God’s prophets has been to nurture it.
The unity engendered by human nature is so profound that it extends beyond religious boundaries. Islam teaches us that all human beings who submit to the guidance of a divine guide are our brothers, our equals, and our peers in faith.
God, the Immaculate, says,
O apostles! Eat of the good things and act righteously. Indeed I know best what you do. Indeed this community of yours is one community, and I am your Lord, so be wary of Me.5
This verse clarifies that all divine religions are on the same path. But instead of heeding the inner guide—human nature—the believers of divine religions fragmented this cord of salvation, each grasping only a thin thread of it:
But they fragmented their religion among themselves.6
This is contrary to God’s will; He furnished a single agent of salvation and thus commanded us:
Hold fast, all together, to God’s cord, and do not be divided [into sects].7
There are numerous hadiths that express that Islam and the Qur’an constitute “God’s cord.” One end of this cord is in the hands of God, and the other end is with us. We must hold this cord with a firm grip and use it to ascend. We must hold it all together, for otherwise we would be all holding it but in disunity. God, the Immaculate, exhorts us to think together and to keep together. This is the solution to many a theological, jurisprudential, and historical dispute, for the efforts of a circle worthy of God’s salutation is, without doubt, productive.
Distinguishing Between Enemy and Enmity
According to the Qur’an, we are confronted by two enemies—internal and external. Our duty in respect to each is different. In confronting the external enemy—the army of unfaith, hypocrisy, and arrogance—the only way is war and resistance; we must defeat the enemy and exhaust its every resource:
So strike [the] necks [of the faithless] and strike each of their fingertips.8
But what is our duty in dealing with those who pray toward the same qiblah, who believe in the same religion and scripture but with whom we disagree? God, the Immaculate, tells us that in such a situation, we must strive to wipe out enmity not the enemy. Infidels and hypocrites are our enemies, and so we must confront them harshly:
Muhammad, the Apostle of Allah, and those who are with him are hard against the faithless.9
When dealing with monotheists and Muslims, however, we must seek to destroy enmity not the enemy.
Good and evil are not equal. Repel evil with what is best, for then he between whom and you was enmity, will be as though he were a sympathetic friend.10
By erasing evil and enmity—not the evil-doer—we can make a friend out of a bloodthirsty enemy. Of course, only a very few can materialize this ideal:
But none is granted it except those who are patient, and none is granted it except the greatly endowed.11
Nevertheless, if enmity is erased, unbiased dialogue can then solve many disputes, for only then can it bring home to us what is good. And once we know what is good, we strive for it without hesitation.
The Qur’an and the Question of Good
But what is good? The Qur’an has the answer to this question. The Qur’an tells us that it contains truths that are beyond human ken, and if it wasn’t for revelation, mankind would never comprehend them.
Fundamentally speaking, the task of God’s prophets is not merely to recite scripture to their people, to establish certain regulations, or to offer some superficial admonition. If it were such, it could have been argued that human intellect could supersede divine revelation. But the Qur’an states,
As We sent to you an apostle from among yourselves, who recites to you Our signs, and purifies you, and teaches you the Book and wisdom, and teaches you what you could not have known.12
It says “what you could not have known,” not “what you did not know.” That is, the apostle teaches human beings what they cannot learn on their own, what defies technology and natural science.
Now let us see what the Qur’an teaches us. The Qur’an explains that human good lies beyond this material world, beyond worldly positions and wealth. To restrict one’s purview to these worldly matters is to sell one’s soul in return for nothing. Those content with this world will have only this world.
There is a beautiful analogy in Surah Yunus and Hadid regarding the state of this world. The Qur’an likens this world to a lush garden in spring that receives abundant rainfall. This wonderful state, however, is short-lived; autumn arrives and withers the plants and scatters the flowers. This is the reality of the material world.

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