It may have been part of the revered teachings of our beloved Prophet (SWS) for us to stay united as a community, but this concept of “togetherness” is lost upon many of us. Theoretically, we all know what it means to keep the ummah as one, and how we must love for our brother/sister as we love for ourselves, but are we really able to overlook our own needs to open-heartedly welcome one another? When we want respect for ourselves, are we able to reciprocate that respect to others? When we wish for others to understand our interpretation of deen, are we able to let others grow into a version of their own? Why have our hearts hardened that there is no longer any meaning behind the word “brotherhood”? (sisterhood, for all you feminists out there!).
I’m going to take this moment to really reflect on the past year, and how many times I came across a troubled version of Islam, right here in our own communities. Where we failed one another with vicious attacks of hatred only because our beliefs were not aligned. Where many of us spent time beating each other down for the smallest and most meaningless things, rather than lifting and building one another up. Why do we cry out for equal opportunity and equality in North America when we are unable to give each other the same respect we are demanding from our society?
People are inherently different in many respects: the way they think, the way they behave, the way they understand and interpret what is around them. No one will be quite like us, or us like them. We can’t all fit into a single framework because it isn’t possible. There is diversity in our cultures, our age, our upbringing. When we know that two siblings will never be exactly alike, why are we holding ourselves hostage to such unreasonable standards of similarity and likeness? Why must we all think exactly in the same way? Who gets to decide who is right and who is wrong? Is my version of “Muslim-ness” better than yours? Am I more Muslim than you simply because I wear hijab or pray fajr at the masjid?
When the very core of our existence can only be examined and understood by our creator, how can we, as His creation, arrogantly become as harsh and critical as we have? Personally, my heart was repeatedly broken this past year seeing that we weren’t able to fulfill our pledge as Muslims. We weren’t able to love one another the way we were meant to.
I’m going to ask you to take a moment and reflect on your own contribution to the Muslim ummah this past year. How have you spoken to others, be it your parents, your spouse, your siblings or friends? What were your interactions like? Did you break down the barriers of your comfort zone to make another believer feel welcomed and loved? Was your heart open to the thoughts of others, even when you didn’t agree with them? Did you honour the legacy of our beloved messenger (SWS) to give others the rights they deserve? Rather than blaming, did you make the 70 excuses you were meant to? Rather than shunning, did you give others the benefit of the doubt?
Let’s start this year by reclaiming an old resolution, to re-examine the roots of our deen and ask ourselves how this year would go, if instead of focusing on how “right” we are, we gave the right to others to be who they are. Instead of criticizing and condemning, we learn the art of naseeha. Instead of trying to get the last word in, we stopped to listen.
Our true success as an ummah is not in agreement, it is in our humility. Because no matter who we are, or where we are on the ladder of faith, not one of us knows where we stand in front of Allah, and which of our deeds will weigh in our favour, and which we will be held accountable for. Learn to forgive one another with the same kind of mercy you would want Allah to forgive you with. Make a promise that you will not taint your hands with the emotional pain of another believer. Have the fear in your hearts that hurting one another will hurt us as a community, and we will never escape our fate of failure, until we truly learn the meaning of seeking out good in each other, regardless of the differences we carry.