All of us face some conflicts in our life. Whether we are disagreeing with a neighbor, having an argument with our spouse, or engaging in a debate with a colleague, we all need strategies to resolve issues peacefully and successfully. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, is our ultimate role model and, fortunately for us, he demonstrated various forms of conflict resolution that are relevant today.
In A Guide to Conflict Resolutions: A Study of Prophetic Approach, the distinguished authors have extolled these virtues.
“He played an important role in resolving disputes among the different people, tribes and parties. In his youth, due to his noble character and beyond comparison honesty and truthfulness, people gave him the title of al-Sadiq (the truthful), al-Ameen (the trustworthy). People of Mecca appointed him their arbitrator for their disputes. In Medina, he was, in the very beginning, appointed Hakam (Mediator) for resolution of the disputes among all the tribes and stakeholders of Medina.”1
Here are some ways the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, demonstrated healthy, effective ways to resolve conflict:
1. Create a win-win situation.
The best way to resolve a dispute peacefully is by letting both sides win at least some concessions. The Prophet showed us that a sincere Muslim would not seek to disgrace or oppress his opponent, even when he is victorious.
With the conquest of Makkah, we see how the Prophet created a win-win situation. When he and the Muslim army conquered the city, they did not humiliate or destroy their enemy, even though the Arabs of that time lived by the law of retaliation. Instead, he offered the Makkans an opportunity to live in peace if they vowed not to fight against the Muslims anymore, or, alternatively, to accept Islam and be part of the family of believers. He found a way to simultaneously elevate Muslims while still being gracious and merciful to their opponents.
2. Listen – really listen– to others.
Author and educator Stephen Covey writes, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Many of us fall into the bad habit of interrupting, jumping quickly to conclusions, or putting more effort into our own response than listening to the speaker and trying to empathize with him or her. If we look to the Prophetic example, we see that he always listened carefully to people, even young children.
We know from one hadith that there was a child nicknamed Abu ‘Umayr whose pet sparrow had died. When the Prophet learned that the youngster was grieving, he approached the child and said:
“O Abu ‘Umayr, what happened to the little sparrow?”
(Sunan Abi Dawud #4969)
Our beloved Prophet already knew the answer to his question, but with his great compassion, he realized that the little boy needed to talk about his pet’s death in order to cope with his grief. Imagine: the human most beloved by Allah, the leader of the Muslim Ummah, the one with the honor of being the world’s last Messenger who conveyed to us the Holy Quran – made time to listen to a sad little boy! If the Prophet with all his daily pressures and responsibilities can listen to others with the intent to understand, then so can we. Once we are truly clear on the other person’s point of view, resolving the conflict will be much easier.
3. Formulate a creative, fair compromise.
When the Prophet was around 25 years old, the Kaaba was destroyed by floods, and the clans of Makkah decided to rebuild it together. Conflict arose, however, when it was time to put the sacred black stone in place. All clans wanted the honor of doing this task, and they were prepared to shed blood to determine the winner. At the last minute, they agreed to allow the Prophet to mediate, knowing he was the Trustworthy One. In a brilliant display of conflict resolution, the Prophet found a creative compromise that satisfied all parties. He asked them to bring a cloak, and he placed the black stone inside the spread-out cloak. Each tribe then took hold of one corner of the cloak and lifted it together. “This practice of mediation was one of the primordial evidences of history in resolving conflicts.”2
Finding a creative compromise as the Prophet did requires emotional intelligence, patience, and trustworthiness. We must think very creatively and be willing to put our own satisfaction to the side. For instance, once he was given the role of arbitrator, the Prophet could have honored his own tribe, the Quraysh, with the honor of placing the stone. But he was not selfish, and his intention was to find a solution that would please everyone and avoid violence. If we exert our best effort and think primarily of pleasing Allah, we, too, can often find a fair and creative compromise.
Furthermore, during a conflict, we should always remember two things:
- If we give up something for the sake of Allah, He will give us something better.
- Allah promises that justice will always be served, even if it is delayed. He will never allow anyone to be permanently wronged. In this life or the next, the record will be set straight.
Conflicts will be part of our life whether we like it or not. If we see them as potential acts of worship and ways of earning Allah’s rewards, they will become more bearable. Let us look to the example of our noble Prophet and attempt to resolve conflicts in the same peaceful, just, and creative ways.
1, 2 Guide to Conflict Resolutions: A Study of Prophetic Approach by Muhammad Shahbaz Manj, Rizwan Younas, Hafiza Umme Salma, Hafiz Muhammad Naeem, Muhammad Tayyeb Nadeem http://ijdri.com/me/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/24.pdf
Laura El Alam is a first-generation American Muslim and the author of over 100 published articles. She has written a children’s book, Made From the Same Dough, due to be released in 2023. You can visit her online at www.seaglasswritingandediting.com.