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Presentation for the Internal Medicine Department King Fahad Medical City on 24th January 2012 by Dr Omar Hasan Kasule Sr.

1.1 Conflict is natural: Conflict among people is human and is natural and occurs all the time. A conflict-free situation is unimaginable in normal human interactions. Claims of a conflict-free environment mask underlying unexpressed conflict that will sooner or later flare up. Since conflict is natural it must have some positive aspects beside the negative ones. Conflict can be lessened or can be managed positively; it cannot be avoided. It is therefore necessary to learn how to manage conflicts.
  1. Ill feelings develop easily among people on earth; part of human nature
  2. No ill feeling in paradise (wa naza’ana ma fi suduurihim min ghilli ikhwaanan ‘ala sururi mutaqaabiliin hijr: 47)

1.2 Definition of conflict: A conflict is an expressed struggle among interdependent persons with perceived incompatible goals or perceived scarce resources in presence of interference of one by the other. People with no common activities or interaction do not conflict
  1. Conflict between the 2 sons of Adam Maida :27-31
  2. Neither a neighbour (jaar) nor a relative (qariib)

1.3 Types of conflict
A conflict may be healthy when it is resolved and all learn from it. It is dysfunctional if it remains unresolved and has secondary effects. Some conflicts are structural. They are there and are only waiting to happen. Other conflicts are personal and have a lot of involved emotional and psychological relationships that even those involved may not be aware of
  1. Conflicts over car parking spaces convinced the administration to build a new facility
  2. Farmers and Bedouins fighting over water sources

2.1 Hidden cause of conflicts: The cause of a conflict may not be easily identifiable unless the conflict is caught very early before getting more complex.

2.2 Negative thoughts/suspicion suu al dhann (iyyaakum wa al dhann fa inna al dhann akdhaba al hadiith). We should not rush to conclusions (iltamis li akhiika sab’uun ‘udhran).

2.3 Prior bad experience may build up to a level that a minor incident triggers off a major conflict. The reaction may not be proportional to the perceived cause of the conflict.  
  1. A major quarrel occurred between 2 nurses over non return of a borrowed pencil
  2. The last straw breaks the camel’s back

3.1 Conflicts that should happen but do not: many observers may be surprised to see unfair and unjust or plain provocative behaviour eliciting no reaction or mild reaction. This is explained by the emotional savings account.  
  1. His staff have been loyal to him over a decade but he is emotional and quarrels a lot
  2. I can’t understand why she has put up with that abusive spouse for 20 years smiling and living with insults and humiliation

3.2 The concept of the emotional savings account: Any two interacting individuals mutually deposit into and withdraw from emotional savings accounts. Acts of kindness, good words, smiles etc are credits. Bad behaviors are debits. A good balance prevents conflict. A low or negative balance invites conflict. Negative behavior overdraws the emotional reserves exposing people to a major conflict even over a minor matter.
  1. We can not live with John but we also cannot live without him

4.1 Power relations: unbalanced power relations cause conflict between individuals. Those who wield power (expertise, control of resources) may misuse it to hurt and the victims react creating a conflict.
4.2 Low self-esteem: Low self-esteem vis-a-vis others is a cause of aggressive action meant to redress the balance. Assertiveness prevents conflict by showing the powerful the limits beyond which they will have to face conflict.

4.3 Other causes: jealousy, competition, and poor communication.
  1. The Qur’anic concept of tadafu’u
  2. The cycle of civilization: weak vs strong

5.1 Khilaaf: Many conflicts in professional settings arise initially as differences of opinions or approaches to problems. Ikhtilaaf or mukhalafat (Maryam 37, Dhariyaat 8) do not mean opposing one another.
5.2 Ikhtilaaf becomes jadal when there is emotional attachment to a point of view and its defence by any means.
5.3 Shiqaaq is jadal that is irreconcilable (fa in khiftum shiqaaqan …Nisa: 35. Fa innama huwa shiqaaq 2:137).
5.4 Different is not the same as wrong (‘an ibn masud sami’itu rajuklan qara a aayat sami’ituhu min rasuuli al llah khilaafuha fa akhadhtu bi yadihi fa atayitu rasuula al llah faqaala kilaakuma hasan Adab al ikhtilaaf p. 46).
5.4 Differences may be methodological like the differences among the imams of fiqh. Some differences are positive and widen the horizons of intellectual discourse. Some are bad and lead to negative consequences.

6.1 Stages of a normal conflict: A conflict situation progresses from having differences over some matter, emotional involvement, adds-ons, and resolution of the conflict.
6.2 Secondary effects of a conflict: Conflicts have secondary and multilier effects. The secondary effects may be worse that the original conflict.
6.3 Unresolved conflicts: Secondary effects of conflicts eventually weaken the group or the society if the conflict is not resolved to everybody’s satisfaction. (la tanaazau fatafushaluu a tadhhaba riihukum anfal:46).

  1. The conflict between Aisha and Ali
  2. Scholars still debate the causes of World War 1

7.1 Both are guilty: Both parties to a conflict bear responsibility for the bad turn of events. The degree of culpability varies. A party to a conflict may not be consciously aware of his/her role in starting the conflict.
7.2 Finding the guilty party: Starting to resolve the conflict by identifying the wrong doer may not succeed.
  1. You cannot wrestle alone
  2. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still

8.1 Positive Aspects: Conflict may be positive if it is managed well and the group learns from it emerging stronger.
8.2 Negative aspects: It may be negative and end with the break-up of the group. Any conflict situation should be a school.
8.3 Conflict is a school: You learn from it to deal better with future conflicts. You should learn to move from conflict to creative solutions

9.0 DEALING WITH DIFFERENCES, adab al ikhtilaf
9.1 Avoid fruitless differences: la takhtalifu fa takhtalifa quluubukum

9.2 Avoid jadal, argument for the sake of argument

9.3 Do not raise your voice/do not be emotional: Abubakar and Omar had a difference of opinion and raised voices; the verse was revealed (ya ayyuha alladhiina aamanu la tarufau aswaatakum fawqa saut al nabiyy hujraat:2)

9.4 Accept authority: Omar had refused the death of the prophet because he interpreted the verse (wa kadhalika ja’alnaajum ummata wasata litakuunuu shuhaada ala al nass wa yakuunu al rasuul alaikum shahiidan 2:143) to mean the prophet would live for ever but he gave up his stand when he read the verses (wa ma muhammad illa rasuul…. fa in maat aw qutila inqalabtum ala a’aqaabikum wa man yanqalibu ala aqibaihi falan yadhurra allah shaia wa sayajzi al allaahu al shaakiriin 3:144) and (innaka maitun wa innahum mayituun zumar 30) he gave up his stand.

9.5 Do not personalize: Focus on the issue and not the person. Ali called the khawarij as brothers who rebelled.

9.6 Show respect for the other party: Whatever the differences we should go out of our way to show respect to the other party. Imaam Shafie prayed salat al subuh near the grave of Abu Hanifa and did not recite qunuut despite his ruling that it was sunnat muakkadat

9.1 Avoiding the initial conflicts: It is often best to avoid a conflict. Conflicts can be prevented primarily by avoiding them and taking measures to prevent their growth if they are imminent. Avoidance is not cowardice. It is strength. It means taking the higher road. Avoiding a conflict may involve some sacrifices: giving up minor rights, putting up with minor injustices, accepting blame for mistakes of others etc. iqrau al qur’an ma iltafat ‘alaihi quluubukum fa idha ikhtalaftum faquumu ‘anhu narrated Jandub bin Abdullah Bukhari.

9.3 Avoidance of further conflict: Human contact in a conflict situation always mitigates further conflict. People with a conflict should attempt to maintain social contact because the anger associated with conflict will decrease even with minimal communication. A Muslim cannot stay away from his brother more than 3 days because of a conflict (Reported from Anas la yahillu li muslimi an yahjura akhaahu fawqa thalathat ayyaam). The best is one who starts re-establishing the relationship  (Abu Ayub al Ansari wa khairuhum alladhi yabudau bi al salaam).

10.1 Principles of conflict resolution: Stick to and do not compromise basic principles. Contain the conflict; do not allow it to go to extremes. Avoid emotions.  Exercise self-restraint. Do not quarrel, accuse, or abuse; this will increase the conflict. Control your anger; its expression does not help conflict resolution. Anger is a secondary emotion with underlying fear. Any conflict must not be allowed to be permanent. Initiate or respond to reconciliation. The one who initiates reconciliation is the better one of the two. Initiate and maintain dialog. Look for options: change yourself, try to change others, change conditions of the conflict.

10.2 Factors of conflict resolution: Resolution of a conflict is affected by the size of the problem, how far the problem is personalized, hidden agendas and concerns, and attitude to a positive resolution.

10.3 Stages of conflict resolution process: The conflict resolution process proceeds in stages: identifying symptoms of the conflict, identifying causes, identifying solution methods, and implementation of the ideal solution method.

11.1 Identify causes: aggressive personalities, conflicting roles, differences in values, objectives, and perceptions, unsatisfactory communication, poor leadership, seeking individual and not team recognition and credit;
11.2 Identify consequences, negative and positive
11.3 Use conflict-resolution techniques to resolve the conflict: avoidance, accommodation, smoothing, bargaining, collaboration, authoritarian settlement, third party arbitration/mediation.

12.1 Most conflicts can be resolved through negotiation. Good negotiation turns confrontation into cooperation.
12.2 A win-win outcome is the best in a negotiation. It ensures that each party gets the maximum it can from the transaction, part as friends who can work together again. Both objectives and relations have to be considered.
12.3 Elements of win-win negotiation: separating people from the problem, looking at interests and not positions, creating options for mutual gain, getting all parties to use objective criteria, enough time to prepare for and carry out negotiations. and optimum circumstances under which negotiation is carried.


Writings of Professor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr

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