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Our Allegiance to Islam

Are we loyal to Islam or our individual causes?

It is not shocking to see that many youth avoid involvement in youth groups due to the fact they are often run by individuals set in their own ways and biases towards others. The lack of willingness among youth groups and other Islamic organizations has disillusioned many talented individuals of merits whose abilities would have served Islam profoundly in our era. Indeed, the believers are brothers to one another, and yet we say this phrase with our tongues while maintaining dislike and discord towards other servants in our hearts. While organizations that have clearly violated Islamic laws should be disassociated from in the spirit of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, this is rarely the case. Many times, petty and un-Islamic issues are the basis for Islamic groups trash-talking and destroying the work of others. In countless situations, we see the diseases of the soul manifest themselves in our actions towards other organizations.

Are we loyal to Islam or our individual causes? “Are you attending the fundraising dinner this weekend?” “No, I don’t associate with the youth group that’s putting it on.” “Can you help volunteer at the Islamic school this weekend?” “No, I really don’t agree with the administrators there.” How common are these exchanges in our communities? Unfortunately, our community has lacked immensely in terms of progress, because instead of building solid foundations, we have become engaged in petty center wars and organizational rivalries. How can we have a community with 10-15 different mosques and centers, and yet so many of our youth are watching Jersey Shore instead of attending a program for an Imam’s martyrdom? The decades of politics, direct and indirect attacking each other, and negative agendas among organizations have left our community with few examples of successful collaboration between community members and Muslims.

The Ethnicity Formula

In every community, there is the Iraqi center, the Lebanese center, the Khoja center, the Iranian center, and the Pakistani center. Which is great, except these centers tend to ignore each other in a best case situation, and in the worst case, each claims to be the best one and tries to destroy any possibility of inclusion and integration. This has led our community to deal with the inability of organizing a structure and confident response to problems from within and without which are faced by all ethnic groups of Muslims. At the present time, our communities have many such efforts, but they are uncoordinated and superficial in their impact.

Very often, the biggest roadblock in even attending another center is the ethnicity or nationality of its congregation. Islam as a religion and social institution was sent to destroy the blindness of racial prejudice and discord. How is that we continue to uphold the ignorance our Imams and Prophets strived to eliminate? In the Holy Quran, diversity and equality are highly praised and stressed: “And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are Signs for those who know.” (30:22)

Sorrowful is the individual who instills racism and tribalism in the heart of any child, because that person has transgressed the rights of other Muslims. By spreading prejudice and racism towards other Muslims and centers that are different from our own, we are spreading blindness and hatred into the hearts of our future generations. Indeed, God will not send success our way until we abandon the practice of racism, division, and narrow-mindedness we have clung onto so shamefully.

“My Organization is Better Than Yours”

If by some Divine intervention our community is able move beyond the color of others’ skin and their language, we must then tackle the ever growing disease that has consumed many “Islamic” organizations. It seems that these days one does not need to study politics at a university or college, but rather, simply joining an Islamic organization in the West will provide you with an advanced degree in politics, connivance, and character assassination.

It is not shocking to see that many youth avoid involvement in youth groups due to the fact they are often run by individuals set in their own ways and biases towards others. The lack of willingness among youth groups and other Islamic organizations has disillusioned many talented individuals of merits whose abilities would have served Islam profoundly in our era. Indeed, the believers are brothers to one another, and yet we say this phrase with our tongues while maintaining dislike and discord towards other servants in our hearts. While organizations that have clearly violated Islamic laws should be disassociated from in the spirit of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, this is rarely the case. Many times, petty and un-Islamic issues are the basis for Islamic groups trash-talking and destroying the work of others. In countless situations, we see the diseases of the soul manifest themselves in our actions towards other organizations.

Jealousy: It is sadly common to see one Islamic organization or group try to detract from the success and gains of another group out of jealousy or vengeful competition. These actions occur when we focus on our own selves and seek fame instead of serving Islam in humility. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) said: “Beware! Do not bear enmity with the blessings of Allah.” When asked about the people who bear enmity with the blessings of Allah, he replied: “Those who are envious.” (Sharh Nahj al-Balagha) All success in this world and the next comes from God. If our own projects or initiatives in the community fail, it is our duty as Muslims to support others who are successful, or at the very least abstain from disparaging them.

Prejudice: Our own affiliations, be they with certain scholars, individuals, ideologies, organizations, or projects should not hamper our judgment, nor should they blind us. A good idea is a good idea, regardless of who is implementing it. Our own alliances should not stand in the way of us supporting other Islamic projects and organizations. Our example in this regard should be our great Maraja Taqleed (Religious Authorities), who despite maintaining different intellectual opinions have supported, praised, and defended each other for centuries. Any Muslim with an ounce of common sense should know that a Marja will never approve of his followers undermining individuals or organizations that adhere to a different Marja.

Reaffirming Our Allegiance to Islam

For our own sake, and for the sake of our community, each individual who embarks upon the path of serving God should evaluate daily his/her sincerity to the cause (s)he is serving. We must overcome the politics, petty attacks, backbiting, and other un-Islamic norms that are controlling our Islamic work. Indeed, our loyalty should be to God, the Holy Qur’an, the Holy Prophet, and the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them), rather than to specific ethnicities, communities, or associations. Instead of worrying about other organizations and plotting to undermine them, we should save our souls from destruction, and the rest will fall into place. At the end of the day, it does not matter whether one organization comes out successful and another fails, as long as the cause of Islam is properly served. In the words of the great champion of Muslim unity, the late Imam Khomeini, “We do not worship Iran, we worship God. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say, let this land (Iran) burn. I say, let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.”

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2 comments

  1. Brilliant and a much needed piece for our communities. Thank you.

  2. I think Masjid-e-Ali in Franklin, NJ and SABA Center in Northern California are exemplary in terms of inclusivity and diversity. When I attended majlis on Shab-e-Ashoor at SABA 2 years ago, four separate halls of mataamdaars (Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, & English) converged into one room and then took turns doing a noha in each different language, while waving large green flags that said “Ya Husayn”. It was brilliant and powerful. Their examples should be followed around the country.

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