Note: This has been written in direct response to something that happened locally, but which I think is general enough to apply to everyone and everywhere (aside from the annoyance that's evidence in certain places!).
People are always talking about unity, and how we Muslims need to unite. These words of “unity” are usually mentioned in the context of differences of opinion, sects (Ahlus-Sunnah and the Shi'a), or even interfaith dialogue. Yet we tend to forget about a very different kind of unity, something that may be taken for granted yet which cannot be due to the serious consequences thereof. The unity that I talk about is unity within our own community, between ourselves. It's a unity borne of the pure intention to do everything for the Sake of Allāh alone, and to do so in the best manner possible. It is a unity that, sadly, we lack.
The lack of this unity has a disasterous effect on us – an effect which I have recently witnessed and which has broken my heart. Truly, the most hurtful thing to the Da'wah is when our egos and personal issues interfere with what's supposed to be purely for the Sake of Allāh.
It's unfortunately true that whenever you get two or more people together, some sort of drama will ensue. Yes, things may start off well, but at some point in time things will get a little rocky. This is where the real test lies, wherein our true colours as individuals, and our mettle as Muslims, are revealed. Alas, many of us often fail this test – may Allāh forgive us all.
Dealing with problems is something that happens to all of us. It's part of life. But where our personal struggles are kept strictly within ourselves and rarely affect anyone besides ourselves, when the problem is taken to a level where it involves other people… this is when we simply cannot afford to give into our pride, the selfishness of the nafs, and the whispers of Shaytaan.
Let me make this extremely clear by presenting an example that we've all seen, and which exists pretty much everywhere. We have masājid and Islamic centres, established for the Sake of Allāh and with the intention of offering beneficial Islamic services for the Muslim community. Part of having these masājid and Islamic centres means that there are people who are, for lack of any other available and accurate term, “in charge.” These people – whether it's a small group or a big one, an elected committee or unofficial volunteers – help coordinate activities and basically get things up and running. So far, so good, al-Hamdulillah. But then things get a little messy. People, being people, will complain. Some issue will arise. Something else will get blown out of proportion. We have entered stormy waters, and unless we know how to deal with it correctly, it will get worse.
hat's where the REAL problem lies – knowing how to deal with things correctly. Most of the time, we don't. As a result, the situation disintegrates: suddenly there are politics where there never were before, and as we all know, politics ruins everything. What began fee sabilillaah becomes a tug-and-war of politics, grinds to a halt, and everybody loses.
This is a major issue that HAS to be dealt with. Subhan'Allāh, we've all witnessed the harm that division amongst ourselves causes. I won't go into how terrible and how very, very painful it is – I'm sure most, if not all, of us have experienced it as some point or another.
Now, I want to focus on how we are to deal with the all-too-common masjid (or Islamic centre)-politics scenario.
- Having a pure intention (niyyah). This is the one thing that is required from all of us, and which is a matter of the soul rather than a matter of action. Whatever we do, it should be done for the Sake of Allāh alone – and we can't hide what's in our hearts from Allāh, who will take our actions and judge them according to our intention.
Keep in mind, however, that intentions can change. What may have started out as something altruistic can turn into something greedy, selfish, and totally wrong. Thus, whenever we embark on any project or fulfillment of a goal, it's our duty to regularly stop and evaluate ourselves – specifically, our intentions. Ask yourself: “Why am I doing this? What do I hope to gain from it? Is what I'm doing beneficial to myself spiritually, and to others at large?” Above all: “Will Allāh be pleased with me for what I'm doing?”
“Actions are (judged) by motives (niyyah), so each man will have what he intended.” (Bukhāri and Muslim)
- Sacrificing our pride and overcoming our egos. This is Jihad an-Nafs, the most difficult thing that every single Muslim will ever deal with. When interacting with others, we have to let go of the attitude that we're always right and that things have to be done our way. Compromise is key. Learn to not be oversensitive and not take offence at the slightest words. If you're about to get mad at someone for something they said or did to you, stop and think if it's really worth flying off the handle/ bursting into tears/ whining about to everyone you see. 70 excuses, remember? And gossiping is haraam, so keep your problems to yourself (unless they're really serious – in which case, consult a person of knowledge and ask for advice, but don't take it to anyone else). In short: get over yourself! There are far more important things than your hurt feelings. Lick your wounds, then shut up and get up. The Muslim community needs you to HELP, not to make things worse.
- Having good manners with everyone, even if you disagree. This is where a lot of us stumble. Actually, it's part of what I mentioned above, but I feel that it needs to be mentioned specifically. When someone disagrees with us, there are a variety of modes that we kick into: angry, dismissive, argumentative, defensive, withdrawn. This is extremely unhelpful. Rather, we should keep our cool, smile, and take into consideration other people's opinions – even if you disagree. Especially if you disagree.
The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said something that we should all ponder over heavily and try to implement as soon as possible: “I guarantee a house in Jannah (Paradise) for one who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right…” (Abu Dawud)
Need I say more? I think not.
These, I think, are the most important points to remember – and above all, which we need to implement. There are a couple other things I want to mention, though.
- Leadership, or lack thereof. Many will say that it's all about having a good leader. Yes, of course having a good leader is important – but for a ship to run smoothly, it needs more than just a captain. It needs a crew that knows how to work the ropes, and most importantly, knows how to react in case there isn't a captain. It's a matter of survival… whether it's a ship or the heart of the Muslim community.
Thus, it's important that we all learn our basic duties and responsibilities to each other as brothers and sisters in Islam. Really, it's fardh 'ain (individual obligation) upon all of us to know what the rights of our fellow Muslims are over us – so why don't we know them? There's absolutely no excuse – al-Hamdulillaah, we have people of knowledge amongst us whom we can ask, and Islamic media (books, articles, lectures) are also available to all of us.
- Islamic knowledge. One of Shaytaan's greatest traps is making us think that because we know a little, we can talk a lot. People: If you're not a qualified shaykh, imām, or ''ālim who has studied under the 'Ulamaah, you cannot give fatwahs! Spending a month or a year overseas, or most of your waking hours on the Internet, does not make you a person of knowledge! You're not even considered a student of knowledge! To put it bluntly: if there's a question or situation posed to you and you don't have the qualifications to deal with it correctly from an Islamic point of view, keep your trap shut and point to the closest person of knowledge around (and no, that does not mean you).
- Hikmah/Wisdom. Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding seem to be things that we're all lacking when it comes to dealing with each other. Whatever happened to being soft with our fellow believers?
“Correct and courteous words accompanied by forgiveness are better than charity followed by insulting words. Allāh is Rich Beyond Need, All-Forbearing. (2:263)”
Here's another reminder for us all:
Allāh says (translation of the meaning),
“Do you do not see how Allāh makes am metaphor of a good word: a good tree whose roots are firm and whose branches are in heaven? It bears fruit regularly by its Lord's permission. Allāh makes metaphors for people so that hopefully they will be reminded. The metaphor of a corrupt word is that of a rotten tree, uprooted on the surface of the earth. It has no staying-power. Allāh makes those who believe firm with the Firm Word in the life of this world and the hereafter. But Allāh misguides the wrongdoers. Allāh does whatever He wills.” (14:24-27)
In short, drama sucks. We need to get our heads out of our butts (forgive the crude language), get our priorities straight, swallow our pride, and do our jobs with pure intention and good manners.
May Allāh forgive me if I've been overly harsh, but it's what I feel is needed.
May Allāh forgive us all for the wrongs we have committed against each other and aid us in our attempt to cleanse our hearts and strengthen our community, āmīn.
See Related Post: Unity Based on Renewal and Guidance.