Islamic Mediation

By Khalid Iqbal

Allah says in Sura Al-Nisaa


وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ شِقَاقَ بَيْنِهِمَا فَابْعَثُوا حَكَمًا مِنْ أَهْلِهِ وَحَكَمًا مِنْ أَهْلِهَا إِنْ يُرِيدَا إِصْلَاحًا يُوَفِّقِ اللَّهُ بَيْنَهُمَا ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا خَبِيرًا {35}


[Al-Nisaa 4:35] If ye fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family, and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation: For Allah hath full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things.

Islamic Mediation is a well established process for resolving disagreements in which an impartial third party (the mediator) helps people in dispute to find a mutually acceptable resolution. The above mentioned verse from the Qur’an talks about the process of mediation in a family dispute.

Islamic Mediation is based on the following principles:

  • The process must be fair to all parties with equal representation from each side.
  • The process needs collaborative problem solving between those in dispute,
  • Every effort to aim for a ‘win/win’ situation which is acceptable to all parties
  • A focus on the future, with emphasis on rebuilding relationships or recognizing that agreeing to disagree is also acceptable but in a civilized manner
  • Respect for all concerned must be in the forefront of all discussions and dealing.
  • The past issues may be part of discussion without apportioning blame for what has happened in the past
  • A belief that acknowledging feelings as well as facts allows participants to let go of their anger and move forward.
  • Re-affirming the belief that Allah is watching over everything.

Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) used to encourages and enable all parties to:

  • Think on a common-sense approach to resolve their issues that is beneficial to all including the families and the community at large
  • Take a step back and look inwards for their own short comings and behavior in contributing to the issues and think about how they could put the situation right
  • to come up with their own practical solution which will benefit all sides
  • allows people to rebuild relationships as they work together to find a common ground for resolution
  • Reach an agreement that is their own.


Mediation is generally more cost effective and often takes less time than going to court, and is a flexible process that can be used to settle disputes in a whole range of situations. It is also an excellent preventative tool and can be used effectively to stop problems escalating and becoming worse. A mediation process is different to the legal process, where hostility often still exists between parties once the case is over.


Steps in Islamic Mediation:

Mediation is a flexible process that is used in a number of different situations. In most types of mediation, the following steps take place: <br />

  • The role of a mediator usually falls on an Imam, community elder or professional who is trained and experienced in the mediation process. He or she must be unbiased and have good observation and listening skills.
  • If one person asks for mediation, all those involved are contacted to check if they agree to take part.
  • Anyone can withdraw at any stage of the process if they want to.
  • Mediator must explain the mediation process along with the rights and obligations of each party or person.
  • Based on the issue and severity the mediator(s) might decide to meet with each party individually. The mediators will ask each of them to explain how they see the issue and current situation, and how they would like it to be in the future. They will also ask what suggestions the parties have for sorting out the disagreement.
  • Information shared during the mediation is private and confidential (with the exception of disclosure of serious physical, mental or sexual abuse that he/she is obligated by law to report) unless otherwise agreed.


If both parties agree to come to a joint meeting, the following steps take place:

  • Mediators will explain the structure of the meeting and ask everyone to agree to some basic rules, such as respect for each other, listening without interrupting and not using offensive remarks or abusive language.
  • Each person will then have a chance to talk about the problem as it affects him or her. The mediators will try to make sure that everyone understands what each person has said, and allow them to respond.
  • They will then help both parties identify and define the issues that need to be resolved. Very often this leads to solutions that no one had thought of before, helping parties to reach an agreement.
  • If it is a complicated issue then the mediator may facilitate each party to find common grounds that can be easily resolved in the dispute and initiate the process of addressing them first.
  • The agreement is usually written down, and signed by both parties and the mediators. However, it is not legally binding and may not be enforced in court unless the parties decide to make it a legally binding contract.
  • The agreement does not affect anyone’s legal rights either, allowing the freedom to find an alternate way of dealing with the dispute at any time.


Role of the Mediator:

The role of the mediator is based on the following principles:

  • Must be impartial during the mediation process, and must have no stake in the outcome of the process
  • Mediators facilitate and help the parties identify their needs, clarify issues, explore solutions and negotiate their own agreement.
  • Mediators do not advise those in dispute, but help and facilitate the parties to communicate with one another.
  • Must be respected elder or a professional or experienced in the field



How can mediation help?



Mediation works because:

  • It allows people to be heard. In many cases, a simple apology from either or both sides is all that is required to put the situation right.
  • It is an empowering process that encourages people to put forward their own suggestions and ideas.
  • It is less intimidating than legal procedures, and parties often represent themselves rather than having a lawyer or someone else speak for them.
  • It provides solutions that the parties themselves have decided on, giving them all a sense of ownership of any agreement. As a result, agreements reached in this way last much better than solutions handed down by courts or an arbitrator.
  • It can be organized quickly. When disagreements are not addressed, they can escalate. Mediation is easy to arrange and can be completed within weeks.
  • It is usually affordable by all. Many masajid offer mediation for free, and many other forms of community mediation are available at a reasonable rate.



Moving the situation on

By giving everyone the opportunity to explain their side of the story, and to talk without being interrupted, mediation can be very helpful when a situation is stuck.

It is not an ‘easy option’ – when people are honest and are encouraged to say what they feel, the situation can provoke strong emotions – but once people have had a chance to express their feelings, they are more likely to let their hostility go.



How can mediation benefit me?

Talking through your situation with an independent mediator can help in a number of different ways.

  • It gives you a chance to tell your side of the story – being listened to can make you feel supported.
  • It allows you to admit how upset you are – many people cope with conflict by pretending they do not care.
  • It makes you feel in charge again – ignoring situations or not addressing conflict may cause the problem to escalate. Talking to a mediator is the first step of dealing with the situation.
  • It could help you decide on what course of action you want to take next, even if that is not mediation.



When does mediation work?

One of the strengths of mediation is that people are able to solve their own difficulties. This works best when those in dispute are:

  • willing to take part
  • prepared to be as honest and open as they can about the situation and the part they have played in it
  • want to work cooperatively with the other person to find a solution
  • would like to continue to have a relationship in the future as neighbors, colleagues or family, for example
  • people feel safe and there is no threat of physical violence.


Mediation works less well when:

  • people feel coerced into taking part
  • they have no reason to work out a future relationship
  • there is a threat of physical violence
  • one party is very intimidating for the other
  • there is a need for a public/legal judgement.



Can we attempt to settle ourselves first?

Yes of course. We recommend to communicate directly as it may in the best interest of both parties. Let us give some suggestions on how to proceed. Many disagreements can be settled without going to mediation if there is still some communication between you, and there is no threat of physical violence. Below are some tips for re-establishing relations with someone you have fallen out with.

  1. If possible, try to deal directly with the person you are in dispute with. That avoids the possibility of misrepresentation, or misinterpretation if a third party is involved. You may want to do it in the presence of an elder or conduct in public place if you fear repercussion or possibility of physical violence.
  2. Messages conveyed through a third party may be subject to misrepresentation or misinterpretation resulting in making matters worse.
  3. Plan a sensible time and a place that is suitable to both sides to discuss with the other side.
  4. The best time is when the matters have cooled down and when you are more rational and calm and about the situation.
  5. Let the other party know you are glad to have the opportunity to resolve the situation.
  6. Determine and define the problem clearly.
  7. Think carefully beforehand about what you want to say and more importantly how you are going to say it.
  8. Don’t accuse, insult or blame – no matter how you feel about the situation. It will not help and is far more likely to make things worse.
  9. Try to set some ground rules of how the meeting should take place e.g respect for all parties, listening with interruption, no offensive or abusive language or cursing at anytime
  10. Don’t make assumptions about the person’s past behavior attitude or actions. You may be wrong about the reasons for their behavior.
  11. Do give the other person a chance to express their views and feelings. It is essential to let them know you are listening, even if you don’t agree.
  12. Bring all the issues out into the open and spend time discussing how they can be resolved.
  13. Work on the problems cooperatively, bearing in mind that the final solution should satisfy both of you.
  14. Agree to meet each other on future dates to check on how things are going.

Islamic Mediation Resources:


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