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Nurturing a culture of unity

Aug 19, 2011, 1:40 PM

Understanding and elaborating on the theoretical principle for Islamic unity is no doubt an important task. Practically realizing the consequence of these principles, however, is often neglected. The following brief article lists ten practical ways in which a culture of unity can be nurtured and developed. These include expending the boundaries of tolerance, not focusing on detailed points of disagreement, and reaching out across ethnic boundaries. Through practical efforts in this direction, it is hoped that the Quranic directive of establishing Islamic unity can be achieved.

The sight is always amazing: Pilgrims standing shoulder to shoulder of all shades and races dressed in simple white and stripped all kinds of worldly barriers-be they of wealth, profession, geography, class, education or anything else. This enduring image of hajj has become a hallmark of this Ummah’s unity in its diversity.

But as we head towards this journey of a lifetime or at least watch as our loved ones leave for it in these next few days, the challenge remains: how do we retain this culture of unity that marks hajj? How our goals as an Ummah, especially in some Islamic countries, where our diversity is even more marked than in other parts of the world?

Here are ten practical ways you and your community can build unity:

1. Understand that Muslim unity is not an option

It has become a cliché to say that Muslims have reduced Islam to rituals and forgotten their important tenets. While it is crucial to practice the five pillars of Islam, for instance, cannot ignore other basic aspects of the faith that emphasize brother and sisterhood.

Muslim unity is a fard (obligatory duty) according to the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (s). Consider the following references below:

The Quran states:

The believers are but a single brotherhood: So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear God, that ye may receive Mercy. (49:10)

It also mentions:

And hold fast, all together, by the rope which God (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude God’s favor on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hears in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He save you from it. Thus doth God make His Signs clear to you: That ye make be guided. (3:103)

In a hadith it has been related:

In heir love, kindness and compassion for each other, the believers are like a human body: when one part of it is hurt, the rests sympathizes with it in wakefulness and fever.

2. Reflect on hajj as a time for Muslim unity

Use this time personally, as well as within your family and community, to remind Muslims of how the hajj is a unifying factor for Muslim. Hold a family meeting about the topic. Organize a seminar at your mosque about how hajj is a beautiful symbol for Muslim unity. Make sure your speakers are those who have performed hajj and can attest to this fact. Also, brainstorm practical ways the lessons of unity form hajj can be learned in your community throughout the year and come up with an action-plan to implement them.

During the process of planning, make du’a for unity throughout the period of the first ten days of Dhu Hijjah, which is a blessed time Say the masnun takbirat (recommended glorifications) and add the talbiyyah to it: labbayk, Allahumma labbayk, labbayk, la sharika laka labbayk, Inn al-hamda wa ni mata laka wal-mulk, la sharika  laka (“O my Lord, Here I am  at. Truly, the praise and the provisions are yours, and so is the dominion and sovereignty. There is no partner with you”)

Say it with your children and family and think about its meaning, remembering that you are at Allah service. You cannnot serve Him unless you are united.

3. Learn tolerance towards others points of views

Is it not interesting that we can attend classes at college or speak with colleagues from work and discuss issues while being willing to disagree with them? But the minute some of us step into a mosque or a Muslim community function, all that tolerance seems to get throw out the window.

Contrary to popular belief, Islam is a broad and extensive faith, and you can find a range of scholarly views on issues as diverse as how to place our hands during prayer to whether or not Muslim should participate in these political processes. If our scholars from the pass and present have shown such tolerance towards differing views on the various issues, who are we-as average Muslims who do not have the same level of knowledge-to express intolerance towards another point of view?

To understand this point thoroughly, I would recommend Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s book Islamic Awakening Between Rejection and Extremism.
To be continued.