The Collective Ummah – our right to basic unity
All our relationships have established etiquette. A husband has rights over his wife and vice versa. Parents have rights over their children, and children also have certain rights over their parents. A customer has rights over the merchant, just as the merchant has rights over the customer. Islam is not about unilateral relationships, but rather, multiple and reciprocal ones. These rights are too numerous to be addressed here, but will be examined in future articles, insha Allah.
Why is it so important to observe the rights of others upon us? Let us take a quick look at the state of Islamic society today. We are lacking humility, love and mercy. The wife has lost the ability to apologise to her husband, and the husband has lost the ability to be compassionate and just to his wife. Children are not taught basic manners, not even how to respect their own parents. Parents are hardly capable of having even basic conversations with their children, and then wonder why their children are strangers to them. Family squabbles are rife. As a result, many families are now broken and disunited. Many are miserable in our own family structures, having been denied our basic rights to love, justice and mercy – this is a hard truth.
How can the Muslim nation ever gain unity if the nucleus of the ummah, the family unit is in such a chaotic state?
We have been raised to think that in order to survive in this world, the “me, me, me” mentality is paramount. The frightening thing in this is that, once we are on that slippery slope, we no longer realize it and it is difficult to stop.
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” [Muslim]
The smallest actions can have wide reaching implications on society. For instance, if all the rich Muslims in the world pooled their resources and donated even less than one per cent of their collective wealth to the poor, global poverty can be eradicated in an instant. Or let us visualise a simpler example where no cash changes hands: what if tomorrow, all the Muslims in the world started the day by smiling at each other and spend a few seconds offering greetings, even if to strangers (within boundaries permitted by Islam), how much more powerful, happy and united we will feel?
However, let us not play the blame game. Look at our own selves – when was the last time we showed any caring to those outside our immediate concern? Why do we put Muslims of our race above other Muslims when Islam is colour blind? How much effort do we take to reconcile differences between fellow Muslims, to solve rather than prolong the rifts? When we hear that someone has fallen into error, do we pray for their repentance and try to guide them, instead of gossiping about their mistakes? How often have we heard the classic excuse of hating how hospitals to avoid visiting an ill person?
We are now paying the price for our insular behaviour, and our ummah is disintegrating. We have become weak as a nation, embroiled in our own internal issues and leaving ourselves wide open to secular invasion and propaganda.
Imagine if we were called to account for our actions before Allah. If we do not make the effort of fostering unity and mercy amongst us, and if we deny the rights of our Muslim brothers and sisters upon us, can we anticipate that Allah will be merciful to us?
This article sets out only six steps – they are not difficult at all, and before discussing the full blown rights of Muslims over each other, let us try to implement these first, insha Allah.
A Final Note
Once, Umar al Khattab RA, the Criterion of the Ummah, complained to Rasulullah SAW about Ali ibn Abi Talib RA, the cousin of Rasulullah SAW, the one who Rasulullah SAW labelled as the head of the young people of jannah. Umar’s RA complaint was that every time Ali RA met him he would not offer salam. The Prophet SAW called Ali RA and confronted him with Umar’s RA grievance. Look to the shocking answer – Ali RA said, ‘O the Prophet of Allah, I know how much you love Umar, and I heard you say that whoever meets his brother and he starts with salam, Allah builds him a palace in jannah. So I decided to delay my salam just to make him say it first and I help him to get this palace in jannah.”
This is just a small example of the amount of love the Companions had for each other, not only of the material reward, or for marriage, money or wealth, but for a level in jannah. Just imagine how far they reached and how far we reached the opposite direction, when we deny each other rights, justice and goodness.
In another incident, Ali ibn Abi Talib RA entered the house and gave his greetings to his wife, Fatimah RA, the most beloved daughter of the Prophet SAW. Her stomach ached, and she requested her husband to take the few dirhams she had to buy some pomegranates for her. He obliged and purchased a pomegranate from the market. On the way home, a poor man in the street waved to him, saying “Ya Ali, I’m a very poor man. Do you know what I want? I want a pomegranate.”
Without any hesitation Ali RA gave the poor man the pomegranate, explaining that he had bought it for his wife but gave it to the poor man instead for the sake of Allah. The poor man offered to take half the pomegranate only, but Ali RA refused and instead went home empty handed. He explained the incident to Fatimah RA when he got home. Immediately, she replied, “It is the best, what you did. It is better that you give it to the poor person.” Some time later, there was a knock on the door. It was one of the Companions, bearing a gift of ten pomegranates for them, on the request of the Prophet SAW.
It transpired that the poor man was Angel Jibreel AS, who, in the form of a man, came to test Ali’s RA iman. After he passed the test, Allah sent down the ten pomegranates for the obedience and sacrifice of he and his wife for the path of Allah – for Allah rewards tenfold for every good deed performed.
Imagine, today, you are going to buy your spouse a new phone or a present that you promised to get. On the way, you hear of someone who is ill or needy, or of a funeral, so you donate the money or even a portion of it. Would you be able go home and face your spouse empty handed? There will be the mother of all fights! Can we react the way Fatimah RA reacted?
This may sound amusing and trivial, but think of where we are now compared to the early Muslims, who lived the message the way it should have been lived. It is time for us to be aware that we are not individual islands, but are part of a much larger collective nation under Allah. Islam is a living religion. It is time for us to revive these basic tenets of Islam, and start seeing our brothers and sisters in Islam as an extension of ourselves instead of strangers. The perfection of our belief is dependent on this, and it is incumbent upon us to fulfil the rights of other Muslims upon us.