Yesterday, Shaykh Yasir Qadhi gave a lecture at the AMJA conference on bridging the so called salafi – ashari divide. His overall point extended beyond just this divide and he gave a model for intra-Muslim and multi-faith interaction and activism. Regarding intra-Muslim differences and intra-sunni conflict, his main point was that we should not divide on arcane issues of theology, e.g., issues that were debated 800 years ago but no one is debating today and that are not threatening to anyone’s faith today, issues like the precise technical interpretation of Allah’s Names and Attributes. He made the interesting claim that if Ibn Taymiyya himself were alive today, he would not be writing on the same issues he was writing about in his time. Rather, he would be writing about the modern intellectual challenges that are destroying the faith of multitudes of Muslims in this age. Ultimately, for intra-sunni relations, there is so much more that we have in common than not, so we should look for that commonality and not look for reasons to split. We should also respect the scholarly roots of these two traditions, salafism and asharism, both of which can be traced to the early centuries of Islam. Shaykh Yasir also emphasized that studying deeper theological issues are still necessary for specialists, but they should not be used to create divisions and distractions for the average Muslim or even students of knowledge.

As far as unity beyond intra-Sunni, this is something Shaykh Yasir also advocated. But he emphasized principled unity. We don’t need to gloss over or relativize our beliefs as a precondition for cooperation. As long as the banner we are standing behind is one of truth, then it doesn’t matter who we are standing with behind that banner. If the issue is opposing hate and violence against Muslims, black lives matter, or other matters of justice, then sunnis and shiis should come together, traditionalists and progressives, and even Muslims and non-muslims, etc. In other words, it depends on the issue and collaboration on one issue doesn’t mean one agrees on everything. It is politically practical and this is also what wisdom in our faith requires. He also presented examples of precedent for such collaboration from the sira.

This is just my brief summary of what i understood from what Shaykh Yasir presented. I am sure the video of the talk will be published soon so that you can benefit for yourself.