Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation

Encountering and dealing with conflicts is part and parcel of life. Differences occur even within a group of people as much as it occurs between groups. Handling these effectively is vital for personal success as well as for successful leadership.

Example from Uhud

One of the key incidents from early Islamic history is the disruption that occurred during the battle of Uhud. A few companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) failed to follow the instructions given to them before the battle and, as a result, caused severe losses to the Muslim army, including injury to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself, the death of his uncle, and the death of around 70 other companions.

The situation was serious and the companions who failed to follow the instructions had to be dealt with effectively.

Surah Aal-Imran 3:159

Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) revealed at that time:

فَبِمَا رَحۡمَةٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمۡ‌ۖ وَلَوۡ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ ٱلۡقَلۡبِ لَٱنفَضُّواْ مِنۡ حَوۡلِكَ‌ۖ فَٱعۡفُ عَنۡہُمۡ وَٱسۡتَغۡفِرۡ لَهُمۡ وَشَاوِرۡهُمۡ فِى ٱلۡأَمۡرِ‌ۖ فَإِذَا عَزَمۡتَ فَتَوَكَّلۡ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُتَوَكِّلِينَ

“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].”
[Surah Aal Imran; 3:159]

Five Steps for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (CRR)

From the above we are able to extract some important leadership lessons in the form of steps to handle those involved in a conflict:

  1. Be lenient (not harsh) when dealing with them.
  2. Lovingly forgive them (verbally) by speaking with them.
  3. Make dua and ask Allah to forgive them (in order to cleanse your own heart of any ill feelings towards them; i.e. tazkiya.)
  4. Include them in future counsel meetings (shura) so that they are not publicly humiliated by having their rank diminished as a result of their mistakes.
  5. Sincerely ask for their opinion during counsel meetings (shura) accept their input if applicable. Thereby they do not feel any enmity/ill will or feel that they have been included in the meeting as merely a symbolic gesture.

This is the command of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) despite the painful circumstances. So how much more observant must we be in our dealings with the people we lead and interact with on a daily basis (e.g., children, spouse, relatives, community members, colleagues at work, etc.)?