Mediation Week is recognised in countries around the world every October to highlight the value of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as a constructive and cost-effective alternative to litigation. To mark the occasion, the Aga Khan International Conciliation and Arbitration Board (ICAB) have prepared a series of articles to share their insights. On day one, we look at the ethical underpinnings and best practice in the field of mediation and dispute resolution.

It is often said that the journey is more important than the destination. The same applies to resolving conflicts. Yes, having a successful resolution to a dispute is the goal, but the journey of understanding another person’s perspective with empathy, and when necessary, offering forgiveness, is also important because the journey allows people to understand the “what, why, and how” of the issue and thus strengthen the foundation of a more peaceful relationship moving forward. 

Conflicts are generally resolved through various alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes. These include negotiation, mediation, conciliation, and arbitration. While there are differences between each type of ADR process, the shared principles that make each process an effective alternative to litigation include voluntariness, confidentiality, non-judgment, and the neutrality and impartiality of the mediator/arbitrator. The mediation process followed by the Aga Khan Conciliation and Arbitration Boards within the Ismaili community is also underpinned by the ethical principles of Islam, which are referenced in the Qur’an, the traditions of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him and his family) and the sayings of Hazrat Ali. These ethical principles include brotherhood, compassion, equity, justice, forgiveness, and kindness.

“If two parties of the believers fight, put things right between them; then, if one of them does wrong against the other, fight the insolent one till it reverts to Allah’s commandment. If it reverts, set things right between them equitably, and be just. Surely, Allah loves the just. The believers are indeed brothers: so set things right between your two brothers, and fear Allah; haply so you will find mercy.” [Qur’an, Sura 49, Ayat 9]

Furthermore, the Qu’ran encourages disputes to be resolved within the community:

“If you fear a breach between them two (husband and wife), appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family, and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their conciliation: For Allah has full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things.” [Qur’an, Sura 35, Ayat  4]

The peaceful resolution of disputes within the community is of utmost importance, as recalled in the following saying of Hazrat Ali:

“Do not separate yourself from your brother unless you have exhausted every approach in trying to put things right with him... Do not be harsh with your brother out of suspicion, and do not separate from him without first having tried to reason with him... Seek reconciliation with your brother, even if he throws dust at you.

Today, more research is being done to find ways to better resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner. For example, in recent years, the approach to conflict resolution has shifted from a traditional “facilitative” approach to a more “transformative” approach, which focuses on empowering disputants to interact with one another by better understanding and recognising each other’s needs and interests. This helps foster and promote a stronger and more peaceful relationship post-dispute. 

Many organisations around the world are also making a commitment to promote peaceful conflict resolution through dialogue and understanding by raising awareness of mediation, and encouraging the use of ADR systems as a way to resolve disputes in an amicable manner. It is during this time that many organisations gather to share knowledge and best practice in the field of mediation and dispute resolution.

As we continue to recognise Mediation Week, ICAB have prepared a series of articles to share their insights on the following subjects:

  • The art of listening: Can you hear me now?
  • Becoming conscious of your unconscious bias
  • Revenge or Restore - Effective conflict resolution.
  • The power of apology and forgiveness in conflict resolution.
  • Teaching children the skills to resolve conflicts.

For more information on the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards, please visit


Shan Momin is the Executive Officer for the Aga Khan International Conciliation and Arbitration Board and a Certified Mediation Trainer. He is also a trained lawyer with experience representing clients in private practice and has served as legal counsel for the largest government agency in the state of Georgia (USA).