Social media is abuzz with the large congregational prayers for rain (ṣalāh ul-istisqa) held in Bay Area under the patronage of imām Hamza Yusuf, imām Zaid Shakir, imām Tahir Anwar and other esteemed scholars.
Most Muslims already know and are greatly pleased by the response from the heavens with rain showers hitting the Bay Area soon after the prayers, and grateful. And there is no doubt that such events help renew faith and trust in power of prayer. However, what we are not talking about enough is a more enduring back-story—Muslims taking center stage in sponsoring an event that affects their entire community, regardless of faith.
The prayer for rain was thus inspiring and awesome at the same time for 5 more reasons:
1. United we stand
What the prayer for rain did was to bring out Muslims in large numbers as a united community, leaving behind the internal politics and squabbles that Muslim organizations and masājid are beset by.
2. Walking the talk da‘wah
Amazing opportunity for da‘wah. How may times have we heard that a million speeches and presentations will not have the affect that walking the talk does. Gathering as a community for a cause that affects all the people in the area with no catches, no Muslim cards, no conditions presents Muslims, as truly concerned for humanity- as they should be.
3. Sunnah the way
Ṣalāh ul istisqa is an authentic tradition traced to the Prophet and as such practicing a sunnah is reviving the sunnah and reviving the sunnah at such a scale, in a communal manner only increases its affirmation. People can argue about bid'ah all the time, but when you affirm the sunnah, the bid'ah already takes the backseat
4. You have been heard
The obvious reason—rain after ṣalāh-ul-istisqa. Believers don't need evidence for their faith, but believers can only have their faith renewed, refreshed and enhanced by seeing these minor miracles. Even Ibrahim asked his Lord to show him how He brings to life the dead, not because he didn't believe but to strengthen his faith [Qurʾān 2:260]—the faith of one called “Allāh's close friend”.
5. Not the “other” anymore
In my opinion, this is the most important reason of all: Concern for the larger community, not being unconcerned about the drought-like situation in the area, and not acting like the “other.”
While we have had countless events on issues affecting Muslims around the globe, like Syria, Palestine, etc. (no doubt also important), we have generally been negligent of our responsibilities of giving back to the communities we live in, of remaining as the “others” in the society. As I discussed in my article on cognitive dissonance, the “other paradigm” may be a large cause for the media/public double standards towards Muslims.
What is the “other” paradigm? Acclaimed Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan has gone at great lengths describing it, of Muslims' reliance on an “external” Islam, fraught with cultural baggage, leaves them feeling inadequate in their own faith, leading to alienation from the larger society.
And I argued in that same article, and close this one with the same:
Let there be a “Muslim Charities” working hand in hand with “Catholic Charities”, let there be Muslim mayors, judges and leaders, let there be Muslim CEOs, let there be Muslim Larry Kings and Jon Stewarts, let Muḥammad and Aisha be names of men and women who are part of the American fabric at every level and at every rung. Only then will we stop being the “other”…