For DAWN, by Amin Valliani Sahib.
THE Muslim ummah makes up a sizeable chunk of the world population. It is spread widely across the globe but faces multiple challenges on the internal and external fronts.
Among the internal challenges, the most serious and pernicious is the division within.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) conveyed the message of Allah in toto. After arriving in Madina, his first and foremost act was the constitution of a Muslim community based on the principle of brotherhood.
During his remaining life on earth he continued to promote the spirit of brotherhood at every level. In his last Haj sermon he reminded Muslims that they are brothers in faith.
In fact brotherhood became the fundamental concept of Islam at the social level. As per the principle of oneness, all Muslims are globally one in their loyalty, devotion and obedience to the teachings of Islam. Geographical boundaries, cultural diversities and political inclinations are secondary vis-à-vis the Islamic faith and its value system.
Brotherhood makes it incumbent upon Muslims to have mutual respect for each other and be united in upholding Islamic values. It is a permanent spiritual bond among all Muslims.
Muslims — guided by the sense of brotherhood — progressed materially within a short span of time in the early days of Islam. They spread the eternal message of Islam in the known world as members of one great spiritual family.
They followed the examples set by the Prophet in social, political, ethical and economic disciplines and showed compassion to others, took good care of their neighbours and guaranteed protection of the life and property of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
However, after the Prophet left for his eternal abode the Muslim community stood divided. The spirit of brotherhood vanished and constant frictions and disharmony became the order of the day. At the beginning the division was minimal but later it became much deeper and continues to grow.
It has made common Muslims’ lives miserable and has caused infighting, killings and warfare in Muslim lands around the globe. Muslims’ blood has become cheap and is frequently shed by their co-religionists.
Thus the Muslims’ faith has come under severe attack and criticism. It is not in the interest of Muslims to remain divided. Rather, it is the responsibility of every Muslim to promote and practise brotherhood, try to overcome differences and build new bridges based on Islamic ethics.
In the world of faith, Muslims are united by Shahada (the declaration of faith) and the need is to practically demonstrate unity in societies where they live.
They are to realise that the division within has caused much pain and damaged their foundations during the long and chequered history of the Muslim ummah.
In order to steer the ummah out of the divisive crisis, the concept of brotherhood needs to be put into action at every level. In this connection it is essential to devise certain parameters which must be adhered to.
First, all segments of the ummah must be allowed to remain true to their doctrines, history and interpretation of faith. No one must be allowed to declare others wrong or infidels. Muslims of whatever persuasion should remember that Allah says He “…Will judge between them concerning that wherein they differ. …” (39:3) and that “Your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His path and who is rightly guided” (68:7).
These verses enlighten us that humans are not to become judgemental in matters of faith. It is purely the domain of Allah to judge who is guided and who is not. We, as humans, try to understand His guidance with the limited capacity of our mind. The Holy Quran leaves the door open for different interpretations without any one interpreter being able to accuse another of being non-Muslim.
Therefore, all Muslims should pray that the Almighty, in His infinite mercy, may forgive any mistaken interpretation, stemming from ignorance or misunderstanding of the Holy Book.
Secondly, Muslim history consists of great achievements of the past centuries, but it also narrates some bitter events and recalling them can generate caustic feelings. Therefore, in the larger interest of the ummah the avoidance of such bitter pages of history is the need of the hour.
The Muslim ummah is not a monolithic entity but pluralistic in nature. This means countless Muslim communities around the globe are of varied types. They affirm the Shahada and declare Islam as their faith but practise according to their cultural contexts. All seek Allah’s blessings and pray for His guidance to move forward on the siratal mustaqeem (straight path).
Islam’s central message is peace, which is possible only when the notion of brotherhood is translated practically on the ground at the grassroots level. History proves that a sense of brotherhood has helped Muslims weather difficult storms.
As we advance further into the 21st century, we need to revitalise the idea of brotherhood and apply it in our lives for reasons of nation-building, economic prosperity and political stability. The ulema, teachers and media persons have a special role in this regard.
Our national curriculum should have special emphasis on brotherhood. Students should be made aware that when Islamic brotherhood is not practised, the entire nation suffers.
The writer is an educationist.