Essay No.09 in a series of essays on Community For more info contact: [email protected]
Values: the foundation of a Muslim and the Muslim Community
We Muslims need a sound foundation to raise the pillars of out faith and to build strong communities everywhere in the world
THERE is a general consensus among the Muslims about the five pillars of Islam. The first is to profess one’s faith, the next three are the rituals i.e. salat, hajj and fasting and the last is the act of giving to poor and needy i.e. zakat. They may be re-arranged by their significance or by their frequency or any other criteria. But the fact remains that these are the five pillars most Muslims agree to.
There is also an enormous body of literature available on this subject. On the Internet, every website on Islam has a visible section dedicated to it and every budding scholar usually begins with this topic. At the same time many Muslims embrace these pillars and practice them religiously. They teach the children at home and in schools to follow these pillars and sometimes even go to extremes in condemning those who do not practice them. But it is an irony that we forget that a building first needs a foundation before raising the pillars or the roof. Even strong pillars cannot sustain a structure without a sound foundation.
Indeed the pillars are important but there must be a foundation first. In this essay we will examine what must be the foundation of a Muslim community and why there are important for us.
Our Foundation is our values
We believe that the foundation of a Muslim and a Muslim community must be the values which Quran and Sunnah are teaching us. These values teach us goodness and shape the behavior of our members and also the collective personality of our communities. Values are the manifestation of our faith. We must raise the pillars of our faith on these values. Without them our pillars will crumble and roof will collapse just like a building without sound foundation. Thus we need strong pillars on top of a deep and strong foundation.
We strongly believe that values must not be a fad to be briefly and enthusiastically taken up. They must be at the core of our culture and guide the thinking and action of our members and thus, shape the collective personality of our communities. We understand, that not having clearly defined core values leaves the door wide open for any kind of behavior. But at the same time just adopting them is not enough to guarantee a commitment to a standard of behavior of which a Muslim community can be proud. Therefore, it must be an integral ingredient in our success, both in our day-to- day operations and longer-term strategy.
Values consist of the principles and moral standards of a community. The following are our core values and we believe we should incorporate them as anchor points in every decision we make:
• We believe in voluntary spirit and do not expect any rewards for our efforts [6:90] • We believe in treating every human being with honor and dignity [17:70]. • We believe that there is no compulsion in matters of faith [2:256]. • We are free from sectarian prejudices [6:159] • We do not revile or criticize anyone’s beliefs [6:108]. • We refrain from saying or suggesting what we do not do ourselves [61:2- 3]. • We provide an opinion on a subject only when it is founded upon adequate knowledge and honest conviction [8:22]. • We recognize the importance of open, honest and respectful communication [42:38]. • We aim to realize our vision by working together as teams [103:3 & 90: 17]. • We oppose gender-based discrimination [4:32].
This is no way an exhaustive list. As we grow we will continue revisiting the core values to ensure that we incorporate values for every aspect of our behavior and decision-making.
Why are the Muslim community’s core values important?
Let us explain why and when core values play a vital role.
First, when new members join a Muslim community, anywhere in the world. At this critical juncture, where an individual is about to take a bold decision and may be hesitant, values communicate to the member what’s important and help them embrace positive change. There must be a harmony between member's values and the community's values. This agreement makes the integration of new members frictionless. Values keep them motivated and inspire them to action.
Secondly, values play an important role in setting the direction of our communities. Together with our mission and vision, values help form our identity and culture. Leaders of the community are responsible to communicate them throughout and demonstrate them through their behavior and interactions on a day-to-day basis. This way values shape the collective personality of the community and enhance credible leadership. Thus, any decision maker, at any level in our community, who makes decisions that align with our values, will be able to justify them.
Lastly, values have a relationship to our strategy. Strategy is plans our community leaders put in place to fulfill our vision. While keeping their focus on measuring performance against goals they must also ask themselves “Are their actions consistent with our core values?"
Values - the principles and moral standards – must be the foundation of a Muslim community. Values are an integral ingredient in our success, both in our day-to-day operations and longer-term strategy. Values help our new members to integrate with the community, help in setting our direction and relate to our strategy. We believe we should incorporate Values as anchor points in every decision we take.