“In most of their secret talks there is no good, except where one exhorts to an act of charity or goodness or reconciliation between people. To him who does this, seeking the good pleasure of Allah, We shall soon give a reward of the highest value.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 114]
The act of reconciling between two disputants is a great deed. Indeed, it is one of the branches of faith. It is a deed that brings an end to enmity and quenches the fires of hatred.
Yet, noble as this virtue is, it is a difficult task that requires practice, experience, and considerable people skills as much as it requires sincerity to Allah. The person who wishes to broker a reconciliation between others needs to know how to navigate tricky cause-and-effect relationships and how to enter into uncertain social terrain. These are, in the broadest terms, the things that a would-be pacemaker needs to contend with if he is to get involved in the disputes of other people.
Though a detailed exposition of all that is needed to engage in this noble task would be an extensive work indeed, it is possible for us to briefly touch upon the most salient points that can make a success out of an attempt to reconcile between others.
1. The person who wishes to achieve peace between two disputing parties needs to always keep in sight the overarching goal of attaining Allah’s reward. Allah says: “To him who does this, seeking the good pleasure of Allah, We shall soon give a reward of the highest value.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 114]
Allah lets us know that He regards this as a blessed and noble work, worthy of a great reward. When the person who embarks upon it is conscious of this fact, he will be encouraged to go forward with greater determination and a resolute heart. He will be able to bear patiently and calmly the hardships he is bound to face.
2. The person should also see himself as carrying out Allah’s command, for Allah says: “Set right the relations between yourselves. And obey Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe.” [Sûrah al-Anfâl: 1]
3. The person should be aware that reconciling between people is a means of building community solidarity. A society that is fraught with conflict and schisms is a society on the way to ruin. Consequently, repairing the relationships between people is a source of community strength.
4. The person must give thanks to Allah for being blessed to have the opportunity to bring reconciliation between people who have problems with each other. He should thank Allah for inspiring his heart and for giving him the innate interpersonal skills that make him well-received by others. These are surely Allah’s gifts.
5. The person needs to have a gentle and patient temperament. This is because he is placing himself between two parties who can often be unreasonable and unjust, whose disputes goad them on towards unjust and ignorant behavior. The person who wishes to make a positive contribution must therefore possess a great degree of self-control and be willing to grin and bear a lot of abuse. He needs to apply calm as a remedy form the maladies of the people he is dealing with.
6. It is vital for the person to have a clear and full understanding of the issues connected with the dispute. It is not possible to make intelligent decisions about a matter without grasping it properly. The person needs to be able to see the problem from all angles and be able to sympathize with differing viewpoints.
7. The person needs to assess the likelihood of his successfully mediating the matter. This can only come after acquiring an in-depth understanding of it. He may need to consult with others or pray to Allah for guidance. It may be that the issue is beyond his scope. It may be that his intervention will have no effect or even a negative one. He may subject himself to harm without bringing any benefit to others. These matters need to be given considerable thought.
8. The person should seek Allah’s help in supplication and prayer. No matter how insightful, skillful, and diplomatic a person may be, success is only by Allah’s grace. We all need Allah’s help. Therefore, we must turn to Him and beseech Him to guide us and bless us with success.
“And your Lord said: Call upon Me, I will answer you.” [Sûrah Ghâfir: 60]
9. The person must safeguard the secrets of the people he is dealing with. This is an essential point of ethics. He must not treat this matter of trust lightly. As for mentioning certain things to trusted parties whose assistance or expert opinions are needed, this is part of the reconciliation process.
10. The person should not let himself succumb to despair. Maybe on your first try you gave your best effort but failed to resolve the problem. If you do not have a strong resolve, you might feel like giving up.
However, if you take the long view, you will persevere. Reconciling between people can be a gradual, step-by-step process. The issues at hand are often not the kind that can be resolved at one go. Therefore, despair is a dangerous feeling that prevents a person from looking for alternatives and trying other approaches.
11. The person should be willing to appeal to others who may be able to help. They may be relatives or friends of one of the disputing parties, or someone that person respects. However, it is necessary to make sure that those people are themselves people of good sense and judgment.
12. The person needs to have his finger on general sentiments and know what is “politically correct”. This is because something that might seem very trivial can have a marked affect on the chance of success. A person needs to know what tone of speech to employ and what sensitive words to avoid.
He must be able to observe the customs of the people he is dealing with and he must be able to gauge their personalities and attitudes.
The person must also have the ability to keep up a cheerful disposition. He must be able to exude warmth and kindness and maintain cordial relations. At times, he must be able to show a degree of anger or give criticism if the circumstances warrant that.
He has to be able to navigate these various considerations, steering clear of excessiveness, neglect, and artifice.
13. The person needs to employ excellent listening skills. We should understand that each of the two disputing parties thinks he has right on his side and that the other person is wrong. Both parties need someone who will listen carefully to his grievances.
Each aggrieved party needs a chance to vent his frustrations. This makes him more conducive later on to do what is needed to bring about reconciliation.
14. The person should speak to both parties in private. This allows each party to speak his mind in the beginning of the process without the chance of precipitating a confrontation that could frustrate later efforts at reconciliation.
These private consultations give the person a chance to ascertain what is really going on and what each of the disputants’ wants and expectations of the other.
15. The person must show respect for both disputants. He should address each of them with the title that he likes to be addressed with. He should never belittle either of them or make light of his status.
16. The person should be careful not to disparage either of the two parties in front of the other. First of all, this is a form of backbiting. Secondly, even after the parties are reconciled, bitterness might remain, and one of them might later on mention any negative thing you might have said about the other.
17. There needs to be honesty, transparency, and frankness in the proceedings. Neither of the disputants should be left to persist in falsehood. Neither party should make promises to the other that he really cannot keep. This requires honesty and openness.
This does not mean that the person seeking to achieve reconciliation between others should be undiplomatic in speech or confront one of the disputants with certain facts in an unpalatable manner. Being frank does not mean that one has to be unpleasant or ill-mannered. Words should be gentle and moderate and palatable to the ears of the person being addressed.
18. It is good to remind the disputants about the negative outcome of their persisting in their dispute. They should be made to think about the harm caused by the persistence of discord and enmity and how hatred blinds people to their own best interests. They should also be reminded of the positive consequences of reconciliation that they will benefit from in this world and the next.
Allah says: “And it is nearer to righteousness that you should relinquish (the claim)” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 237]
Allah says says: “Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon (all) people;- for Allah loves those who do good.” [Sûrah Al `Imrân: 134]
He also says: “If a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah.” [Sûrah al-Shûrâ: 40]
They should also be told factual accounts about people who overcame their differences and reaped the rewards of doing so. This provides needed encouragement for the parties to get past their dispute.
19. Ample time should be given to achieving the reconciliation. Once the person working for reconciliation does all that he can, he must give time its chance to work things out. People need time to calm down. They need time to let new ideas settle in their minds. They need time to rethink their positions and adopt new points of view.
20. The person should take every caution to avoid subjection either of the disputing parties to injury or harm as a result of the reconciliation.
For instance, this might be the case for someone who intervenes to reconcile two people who have just had a car accident. The well-meaning person might speak well and convince the party in the right to forego any claim from the other party. This means that the person who was not at fault has to bear the full burden of the accident on his own, even though he might be poor and have to beg the assistance of his friends to get his car fixed.
Therefore, it is crucial to avoid a solution that harms or wrongs either of the two parties. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There shall be no harm or the causing of harm.”
Any pardon given by either of the parties to the other or any waiver of rights should be for the betterment of circumstances and not a cause of injustice or injury.
21. The person should not intervene in a dispute with the precondition that the outcome must be successful. He must do the best he can and accept the fact that success is not guaranteed. He should realize that he will attain blessings for his sincerity and for his good attempt. Allah’s blessings are not contingent upon a successful outcome.
We must adopt the words that Shu`ayb (peace be upon him) said to his people: “I only desire (your) betterment to the best of my power; and my success (in my task) can only come from Allah. In Him I trust, and unto Him I turn.” [Sûrah Hûd: 88]