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Creating Unity

ImageThere are a few activities which have proved to be fruitful in several communities and which many of us can try and implement in order to increase unity in our communities as well.

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Unity is easier said than done.

There is a lot of discussion about being and becoming united, but it is a task which is easier said than done. Communities may not have ideas for creating that brotherhood we all seek, or some of their ideas have not proved to be very successful, while others have yet had to get a chance to be acted out upon. However, there are a few activities which have proved to be fruitful in several communities and which many of us can try and implement in order to increase unity in our communities as well.

Camping: This is a very popular event. It's typically held annually. Generally, a few communities from a few neighboring cities get together and organize a weekend-long camping event.

Pros:

  1. A great opportunity to meet and spend time with Muslims from different communities and cities. And because the very nature of camping includes a lot of group activities (i.e. hiking, games, boating/canoeing, bonfires, etc.), it provides a great opportunity for some quality bonding time.
  2. Provides the opportunity to combine spirituality, learning, and fun.
  3. Not only is it a great opportunity to get in touch with the great outdoors and fellow Muslims, if organized accordingly it can be accommodating to most age groups as well.

Cons:

  1. Organizing it can be complicated.
  2. Finding a suitable location can be difficult.
  3. Can be costly.
  4. There needs to be a suitable amount of chaperones for the younger children.

Picnic: Basically all the organizers have to do is locate and reserve a spot at a park, make flyers, and provide some refreshments. (If they want, they can also turn it into a BBQ and charge for burgers, hot dogs, etc.) The rest is left to the community members themselves. They can bring their own food and outdoor equipment (bikes, roller blades, basketballs, soccer balls, volleyballs, etc.)

Pros:

  1. Requires less planning compared to some of the other activities.
  2. The kids love it. They get the chance to play for hours, and the adults/parents have plenty of time to mingle with one another and play as well.
  3. Inexpensive.

Cons:

  1. Can be difficult to find a nice and safe park which will have an area (preferably shaded) to hold a large crowd and that will provide enough space to prevent un-Islamic mixing of the brothers and sisters.

Potluck: You can use a local center/mosque, someone's home, or any other (preferably free) location. Everyone who attends brings his/her own dish (enough to feed a few people) to share with others. It's best if you can get people from a good variety of cultures to attend.

Pros:

  1. The food responsibility isn't placed on just a couple of people.
  2. A great bonding experience, it can really make you feel like family.
  3. Can be done on a more regular basis. It can be held once a week, every two weeks, once a month, etc.
  4. It's easy to organize and best if kept simple.
  5. One of the least expensive activities.

Cons:

  1. Works best if there are about 20-30 people.
  2. Finding a suitable location can be difficult.
  3. Can fade away easily.

Carnival: They're generally held at the local centers. They can include rides (inflatable slides, moonwalks, pony rides, etc.), food (BBQ, popcorn, cotton candy, snow cones, sandwiches, nachos, chili dogs, etc.), games, mini bazaar, petting zoo, face-painting, and other activities.

Pros:

  1. The kids especially love this one.
  2. Accommodates most ages.
  3. A great opportunity to get the youth and community members to participate by volunteering (cooking/serving food, manning stations, etc.).

Cons:

  1. Can be difficult to organize. It takes a long time (couple of months) to organize (renting rides, machinery, etc.), and if the weather decides to be uncooperative, it can ruin all that planning.
  2. There needs to be a good turnout in order to pay for the expensive equipment and rides.
  3. Getting enough volunteers to help can be difficult.
  4. Activities/rides should accommodate the sisters so they can have fun, without compromising their Hijab. (One center rented out a second inflatable slide and placed it where no men were allowed to go, so that way the Hijabi sisters could have fun as well. And I assure you, the sisters enjoyed it thoroughly!)

Volunteer Work: This includes programs like feeding the homeless, adopt-a-block, cloth/toy/food drives, as well as other programs.

Pros:

  1. Provides the opportunity to earn good deeds.
  2. Working together for a common goal creates a sense of solidarity.
  3. A great opportunity for the Muslim community to be seen.
  4. Generally requires a smaller amount of people.

Cons:

  1. Often the same people do it on a regular basis.
  2. Can be difficult to get proper funding.

Seminars and Conferences: These can be held locally or nationally, but it takes a great deal of planning. The basic parts of planning include : selecting a theme, finding speakers and finding a location/hotel.

Pros:

  1. Wonderful opportunity for meeting people from far locations.
  2. Especially when there are workshops, it's a great opportunity to bond with other Muslims.
  3. An excellent source of knowledge and good opportunity to ask questions from scholars.
  4. Spiritually uplifting.
  5. Accommodates most ages.

Cons:

  1. Takes a lot of effort to organize.
  2. Requires many volunteers.
  3. Finding and confirming speakers can be difficult.
  4. It's expensive.

Programs that are held at Islamic centers usually don't offer much opportunity to interact with other community members. These are just a few suggestions that can be great ways to bond with friends we already have and hopefully create new friendships as well. They provide the chance to see one another in a setting besides a lecture/prayer hall and get to know one another better. Interacting and getting to know one another better will help us to accept and get along with each other better as well, Insha'Allah.


A former student at the women's seminary in Qom, Zahra Shahnarad is a senior at the University of Houston. She is a new member of the
Islamic Insights team and will be writing about community affairs.

About Zahra Shahnarad

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  • OJ

    Our center has Potluck every time we meet and peoples comment on quality and quantity has caused some not to attend. Any suggestion how to overcome this obstacle.

  • salam

    Yeah, potlucks are a bit hard as I am single, on a tight budget and do not know ethnic cooking so I am never sure what to bring as the people seem to have certain foods in mind for certain occasions that I am totally clueless about. So often I bring soda or candy or something like that; I don’t know if people think I’m a freeloader or what….