Islam, July - Sept 2007

One God, Why not One People?

By Yahsmin M. B. BoBo

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Kind

“The believers are but a single brotherhood.” (Qur’an 49: 10)

When I conjure thoughts of Muslim Unity, I think back to the earliest days in the establishment of Islam. I envision our blessed Nabi, peace be upon him, his family and companions, may Allah be pleased with them. I ponder the persecution, alienation and hardship they endured during their difficult stay in Mecca and during both migrations first to Abyssinia and later to Medina.

Their unity and support of one another was inescapable and indeed, crucial in their survival. This is the greatest reflection of sacrifice and dedication I learned of, and one that has remained unmatched since.

Today, as Muslims, we take these same sentiments for granted and uncaringly concentrate on our petty differences more than focusing on the precious similarities. Why is this? Have we forgotten the essence of Islam- our unity and cooperation? The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said, “A believer to another believer is like a building whose different parts enforce each other,” while he clasped his hands and interlaced his fingers. Imagine that we are a building, whose structure is dependent on cooperation, tolerance and love for the sake of Allah. If that were so, we’d need a lot more of these characteristics to stand upright.

The first step in a better direction is to embrace our differences and try to understand the nature of our misunderstandings and sometimes even intolerance. This requires active and ongoing communication between the conflicting groups of Believers. Usually, our misunderstandings come from culture, language, and financial backgrounds. While Islamically speaking, our spiritual studies based on Madhab or Fiqh often cause division among the most sincere servants of Allah. Sometimes the media and its misinformation campaign have not only affected the perception of Islam altogether, but have created dissension among the Muslims by affixing sectarian labels and racially compartmentalizing the Ummah.

Granted, some of this may be necessary to mention, however the danger lies in our acceptance of their perception and reliance on the mainstream media as our only means of information.

When all is said and done, most of these things are relatively superficial and have very little importance in the broader picture. Remember that, on the Day of Reckoning, we will not be called to account for the superficialities of speech, money or intellect. Rather, what we will be called to account for is how we used that language to speak kindly to one another, how much of our wealth was used in charitable means, and whether or not we actually implemented our studies of Islam into our character and daily interactions.

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (Q: 49.013)

Undoubtedly, we believe that Allah is One (Tawhid). With the same theme of oneness and unity, we should consider ourselves in the same light. We are one people, in spite of our countries of origin, the many different languages we speak, the hues of our skin and the Masjid of which we attend. Our Shahadah, Salat and Sawm are the same. Zakat is the same and finally, our Hajj is performed with the likeness of every other Believer in the Ummah. And this is what the focus must remain on. This is the personal sacrifice and the dedication that we must aim to demonstrate, as the blessed Sahabah once did.

There is a story about when Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) contemplated the disunity that persisted, so he called for Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) and asked him, “Why should this Ummah be tormented by disagreement when it has the same Prophet, the same qiblah and the same book?” Ibn Abbas answered, “The Qur’an was revealed and we read it and comprehended the reasons for its revelation. But there will come people who will read the Qur’an and fail to understand the occasions and subjects of revelation. As a result they will make different interpretations and will, therefore, disagree.” Ibn Abbas added, “Every group of people will have an opinion about the Qur’an, which will lead to disagreement, and then to fighting.” (Source: “Islamic Awakening Between Rejection and Extremism” Yusuf Al-Qaradawi)

Obviously any such fighting should be avoided at all costs and there are certainly preventative measures within reach. This invaluable wisdom from the Qur’an is our preventative medicine for any such ills that the Muslim community falls prey to. The second step is enjoying the company of others with every opportunity that Allah provides. When Malcolm X performed his Hajj, he marveled at the diversity and beauty of the Muslims, feeling as though he belonged to something much greater than the nationalism he left behind in the United States. We should marvel in this too and be proud that Allah gave us one another to learn from.

Although we all share the personal goal of performing Hajj, we ought to reap the benefits of this harmony in other settings as well. Salatul Ju’maa, the two `Eid celebrations and Iftaar during the month of Ramadhan are all merriments, however, let’s take it above and beyond obligation and seek to incorporate Muslim unity into ordinary events and activities.

I know that I’m not alone in wanting to look around and see my brothers and sisters in faith enjoying the similarities that we share and feeling that strong sense of camaraderie. And now, Insha’Allah, the Bay Area Muslim community is being awarded that perfect opportunity for the Muslim Unity Day at Paramount’s Great America on August 11, 2007! Let’s pray that we all walk away that evening, after a fun filled day, with the dedication it takes to sustain a community as large and blessed as ours.

Please visit the following website for more details – http://www.muslimunity.us