How can any Muslims come to a center, a place which we claim and call our Islamic headquarters, and not have friends? If there is one thing we can learn from American television, it’s the phrase, “Howdy neighbor!” For those who have watched the classic sitcom Home Improvement, you know what I’m talking about. In the show, television star Tim Allen visits his neighbor daily in his backyard and converse over his fence about problems he was facing, getting advice, or just saying hello. If you ask me, when we look around at our communities, we don’t say “howdy!” enough (I mean “Assalam Alaikum”).
Look around on Facebook, your community announcements, and mosque bulletins, and we see new youth programs left and right. Question and answer sessions, debates, reading clubs, the list can go on. Alhamdulillah, some are hitting high participant numbers, but many youth groups can vouch the opposite. So what do you think the problem may be?
Lately, I can solely speak for the community I live in, but I have heard from others around the nation as well, that there just isn’t enough camaraderie, brotherhood, “clicking”. It’s kind of become a hot topic. There isn’t enough “social activity” going on in the centers. We recently had a youth circle discussion in which the question rose about why youth don’t come very often to the center anymore. Some gave their point that they just don’t come because they simply don’t have any friends there. And that is where I see the problem.
How can any Muslims come to a center, a place which we claim and call our Islamic headquarters, and not have friends? This shows that there is a minor setback in our Akhlaq when it comes to dealing with our brothers in sisters who pray next to us, sit with us, break fast with us, and share the same beliefs as us. In Al-Kafi, it is narrated that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) said, “Half of wisdom consists of establishing affectionate and friendly relations with people.” Let’s do a self-check real quick. Since it is Muharram, and most of us have been frequenting the centers these days, let us think about our behavior with our fellow faithfuls. Do we find ourselves being introverts? Sitting alone and not talking to others, not even passing a greeting of peace? Do we find ourselves eyeballing fellow members and not even smiling? Here’s a common one: Do we find ourselves only conversing and sitting with the same people every time?
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (peace be upon him) has said, “Avoiding the company of people (living like an introvert) breeds enmity.” It is not to say that extroverts are superior and better Muslims than introverts, but what we must realize is that this is a slack and setback for our progress as a united community, wherever we may be. We find ourselves going to work and school, smiling at our stranger friends, mere co-workers, and colleagues in attempts to fight the “Muslims are mean” label the media has given us, but in reality, we are mean! We hold grudges, we have ego problems, and worst, we make judgments in our heads about each other.
Some people were sitting in the company of Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) and were engaged in a conversation on a general topic. During this talk, one of them started backbiting and complaining against a person who was not there at the moment. Addressing this person, the Imam said: “Do you have any friend in this world who is perfect in all respects and his moral character and speech is flawless?”
[Translator’s note: The Imam meant to say that no one except the Divinely-guided Prophets and Imams are infallible and flawless.]
We need to take a step back before going full force into our “active mode” and see where we really stand as friends, as a youth group, as a community, as brothers and sisters. We cannot jump the gun and leave our community duties behind. As we progress and move forward, some more ahead and capable than others, we need to make sure that we are not letting our egos get in our way of advancing as a united group. Are we bringing along others who may not know, or are scared and don’t know what to do? Are we inviting our friends to do good and encouraging them? Or do we sit in our bubbles and think we are doing our best?
Just like the famous picture of the world with all the people around it, the best part about the picture is that everyone is holding hands.