Essay No. 02 in a series of essays on Community For more info contact: [email protected]
Muslim Community: our Vision Sep 2005
We embrace the vision of a Muslim Community, which promotes the values of Quran and Sunnah in our society and help in creating an environment free from fear, prejudice or favoritism, where everyone can live without discrimination and equitably share the resources of the land.
THE DATE was August 11, 1947, the place Karachi and the occasion was the birth of a new nation. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, its founder, was speaking to the Constituent Assembly as its first President. In his speech, Jinnah gave the nation his vision. He said that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State. Then he advised us that if we work with spirit, the angularities of our sects and ethnicity will vanish. Then he warned the nation of the evils of bribery, corruption, black-marketing, nepotism and jobbery and that he will never tolerate prejudice, partiality or favoritism.
Half a century later his vision is all but forgotten, his advice fell on deaf ears and all his fears proved to be true. The state failed miserably in protecting the life, property and religious beliefs of its citizens. The angularities of ethnicity and sects are sharper then before. The principles of justice and fairplay were systematically removed from our political and social life and our culture today is one of bribery, corruption, black-marketing, nepotism and jobbery. These evils have not only destroyed our social fabric but also destroyed our institutions. No wonder the name of our country is synonymous with terrorism, electoral frauds, dictatorship, ignorance, human rights abuses and sectarian and ethnic violence.
Such ground realities demand that we critically assess our achievements as a nation and identify our shortcomings. We must realize that the structure of Muslim societies is polarized into the individuals and governors. The lack of grassroots social organizations that fill the void between those poles is one of the major causes of our failure. This in turn is the legacy of feudalism, colonial rule and sectarian prejudices of the Muslims of South Asia. But this is unfortunate when we always had references to the need for those organizations in Quran itself.
We believe that all the citizens of the state must participate in building grassroots social organizations to fill the void between the individuals and governors. Therefore, We embrace the vision of a Muslim Community, which promotes the values of Quran and Sunnah in our society and help in creating an environment free from fear, prejudice and favoritism, where everyone can live without discrimination and equitably share the resources of the land.
We commit ourselves to encourage respect for diversity , tolerance and freedom of thought so that life, property and religious beliefs of all the citizens are fully protected, as envisioned by the founder of Pakistan.
In this essay we examine what is a community and what is our vision of a community.
What is a community?
God has given us the abilities to communicate, to speculate and to rationalize. Even in the earliest hunter-gatherer cultures, humans used these abilities to realize that there is strength in numbers and that it is for common good to share work and resources. They discovered a balance between self-interest and group-interests within and among the members. They realized that sharing is crucial for their survival. This became the basis of human community.
Thus, a community is a group of individuals who have some shared elements and they reinforce this sense of sharing by communication and building social bonds. Community gives a meaning and significance to the shared elements and provides an opportunity to its members to feel connected.
The word community also brings to mind many concepts and ideals like, a sense of sharing, a sense of home and history, and the classical ideals of loyalty, working together, sacrifice, commitment and common good. It brings many insights that would be more difficult to stimulate by an individual and allows its members to share not only in joy, but in pain and resistance.
Our vision of a Muslim community
Quran provides the vision of a Muslim community which is based on its universal values and stresses that it is the primary vehicle of moral, social and political uplift. Quran draws an analogy between such a community and a seed which sends forth its shoot, then it becomes strong, thick and stands firm on its stem delighting the members of community . There are numerous verses in Quran where God has directly addressed the Muslim community of believers. In this section we describe some of the basic principles for our community which we have adopted from Quran.
The concept of democracy is based on the simple principle that decisions affecting the Muslim community should be made by the community itself. Quran stresses on the need to recognize the importance of collaborative decision making by open, honest and respectful communication . It is the community as a whole, not one person that owns and exercises power.
In a Muslim community, we believe that democracy can be practiced only by respecting the majority opinion in every decision which must be constrained by values . We believe that democracy cannot be enforced by coercion rather it grows from within when we make it an anchor point in all our decisions. In this way, we strive to make democracy an integral part of our culture and collective personality.
Quran has an inclusive approach, which is respectful to the differences between humans but invites people of all cultures to come together to know each other, to help each other to do good and caution each other from harm . Everyone who wishes to join our community is welcomed on agreeing to our values. We believe in treating every human being with honor and dignity . We oppose gender-based discrimination and we are free from sectarian prejudices .
Respect for diversity
Quran promotes diversity by recognizing that everyone is different . Diversity promotes respect and recognition for the value of difference and involves creating an environment that capitalizes on everything that makes us unique - our gender, race, physical abilities, age, lifestyle, family status, linguistic abilities, etc. This ensures that everyone is given a fair and equal chance to be successful. In his last sermon Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) clearly said that in our religion there is no concept of ethnic superiority, instead he emphasized that only piety and good action makes you superior .
Freedom of thought
Freedom of thought is the freedom of an individual to hold a viewpoint or thought regardless of anyone else’s view . Quran has laid the fundamental principle that there can be no compulsion in matters of faith and everyone is free to have any viewpoint or thought. A person cannot be persecuted for his religious beliefs. Quran stresses us to think deeply to understand the wisdom of God’s message and do not be a blind follower . Quran invites everyone to study the nature and think deeply and appreciate the power, benevolence and majesty of the creator.
We believe that everyone in a Muslim community is equal and everybody is a student as well as a teacher. There is no room in the community for a self- important person or self righteousness. Quran gives us some excellent guidelines on who to promote open, honest and respectful way of dialogue. Quran encourages the believers to invite people towards the message of God with wisdom and in a beautiful manner . Quran emphasizes that the duty of a believer is just to convey and not try to convince
Our social, economic and political conditions demand a change and that we make our utmost effort for their uplift. Unless a group of individuals join together for common good we will never defeat the evils against which our founding fathers warned us. Therefore, our vision is to bring those people together who are ready to embrace the vision of a Muslim community based on the values of Quran and Sunnah, which forms the basis of a society, where everyone can live without any discrimination and equitably share the resources of the land.
Notes & References ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Quran 048:29 Quran 42:38 “…who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation…” Quran 4:58 “…and when you judge between men, you judge with justice…” Quran 90:17, 103:3 Quran 17:70 “And indeed We have honored the children of Adam...” Quran 4:32”… for men there is reward for what they have earned, for women there is reward for what they have earned…” Quran 6:159 “Verily, those who divide their religion into sects, you have no concern with them………” Also see Quran 3:19; 30:32; 42:13, 14; 43:65; 45:17 Quran 49:13 “O mankind! We……made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another……….” Last sermon of Prophet Mohammed “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white - except by piety and good action” www.wikipedia.org/wiki/freedom_of_thought Quran 2:256 “There is no compulsion in religion. However, the right path has become distinct from the wrong path” Quran 3:191 “Those who remember God… and think deeply… about the creation of the heavens and the earth….”; 030:8 “Do they not think deeply about themselves?...”; 47:24 “Do they not think deeply in the Quran…”;
Quran 25:73 “And those who, when reminded of the signs of God, fall not deaf and blind thereat” Quran 16:125-126 “Invite to the way of your God with wisdom and fairness and have dialogue in a way that is beautiful….” Quran 13:40 “…and your duty is only to convey…”,