If we are united in our behaviour and actions; if we display tolerance, understanding and respect; if we root out all forms of prejudice and accept that difference is beautiful and enriching – perhaps then we can be a true Ummah as our beloved Nabi intended.
An Ummah United or Divided?
“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.” (Quran 3:103)
We read this, are taught it, we listen to khutbahs and lectures on it. Yet we still are divided. This verse in the Quran clearly tells us not to split into factions – yet this is exactly why our Ummah, our communities, and even our homes are broken.
I am well aware of the political factors which have contributed to this division – sectarianism reflects true religious differences but underlying this more is power, ego, fear, resources, and territory. You only have to Google ‘Muslim-sectarian-violence’ and the scale of the issue becomes apparent. Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and Indonesia. However I believe this is a discussion by someone far more knowledgeable in these matters than me.
Our elders lament the lack of unity in the Ummah however we need look no further than what goes on in our homes and communities. The effect of sectarian division across the globe, different madhabs, and schools of Islamic thought have led to intolerance and hatred in our homes. We are travelling on a dangerous path of believing we are “right” – when only Allah (swt) knows truly. Tribalism, racism, and colorism are other huge issues in Islam. As an Ummah we have more access to information and we are well aware of the message in our beloved Prophet’s (saw) Last Sermon:
“There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”
So why do we still insist our children’s friends are who WE feel more comfortable with? Look at your social circle – how many African Muslims are there? How many Shia Muslims? How many people who aren’t usually in the majority? What message is this teaching our children and are WE part of the problem?
Surely we should be teaching messages of kindness, tolerance, compassion, and understanding. We are enriched by each other not made weaker – the differences in food, clothes, and even thoughts are something I find exciting and for me leads to a better understanding of my Deen by asking questions. The biggest and most obvious area this division is apparent is when we are looking for a life partner.
Islamically, marriage is a way to complete our Deen; there are countless teachings on what to look for. Yet we have brought culture and our own prejudices into the process: colour, madhab, sub-group, lineage, social connections, status, and country – the list is endless. I myself am Pakistani and married a Bengali – it caused an outcry. I remember even a Pakistani taxi driver in Dubai telling me off in Urdu whilst my husband was sat in the car with my children.
Imam An-Nawawī said regarding the tongue: “Whoever wishes to speak should reflect before saying anything. If any benefit is found, then let him speak. Otherwise, let him remain silent.”
So should we not be doing this? We are told repeatedly about the sins of the tongue both in the Quran and Hadith. We need to reflect as an Ummah – what benefit has all this division led to? Is Islam stronger because of it? The answer is a simple NO. We need change and this starts in the home. Here are some tips:
- Notice your own beliefs and opinions: educate yourself and read a translation of the Quran plus Hadith. Challenge practices and beliefs as to their origin and validity. Acknowledge and respect differences within your own family and demonstrate acceptance of the differing values and opinions in your community.
- Remember that tolerance does not mean tolerating unacceptable behaviour. If we see or hear anything that goes against the true teachings of our Deen, we must politely raise our voices against it wherever possible.
- Help your family and community feel good about themselves – restore pride in our Ummah. We are honoured to be Muslims – so let our actions speak louder than our words. Help each other when in need; support the youth of our community; organise events for our elders and hold regular community events. We must also integrate into society and our behaviour be a form of Dawah – volunteer at school or a soup kitchen, call in on your neighbours and offer to shop for anyone who is housebound. During Eid and Ramadan, involve non-Muslims in your community or at work. Invite them for Iftar and drop Eid treats to your local church, GP surgery, or school.
- Remember children are always listening! Be mindful of what is said around them and the type of language used: select books, toys, music, art, and media carefully. Answer children’s questions about differences with honesty and respect and also give children opportunities to work and play with others who are different from them. Learn together about holidays and religious celebrations that are not part of your own tradition. Honour your family’s culture (do not get it mixed with religion) and teach them to your children.
If we are united in our behaviour and actions; if we display tolerance, understanding and respect; if we root out all forms of prejudice and accept that difference is beautiful and enriching – perhaps then we can be a true Ummah as our beloved Nabi intended. His care and concern for the ummah came from a place of love and responsibility rather than that of authority and despite many hardships, he continued to pray for those who were misguided and showed compassion even to his enemies.
Every member of the Ummah is regarded as equal before Allah. Islam brings everyone together into one community; all are equal members regardless.
“You are the best community (Ummah) raised up for (the benefit of) humanity; enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong and believing in God…” (Quran 3:110)