Muslim Community in America: Unity in Diversity *
By Dawud Khalil-Ullah
Unity is a gathering together around a common goal. In Islam it includes Tawhid, belief in One God, and acceptance of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as His last messenger. There are also six articles of faith and five pillars of Islam we are required to practice.
Beyond that, there is room for difference of opinion. I think as Muslims we need to readdress the question of unity. Unity does not mean that we have to dress or think or act alike. Or even that we have to have the same interpretation of Qur’an al-Karim. In the Creation of Allah (swt) we see this wonderful manifestation of unity in diversity. From the atom to the solar system to the galaxies and beyond, there is this great fabric of diversity through which runs the common thread of unity.
Thus, as we look at the diversity of God’s creation around us, we must recognize that we don’t have to be the same, that it is okay to be different. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said about his companion Umar (ra) that he was like Moses (as), hard and strong, strict to the bone while Abu Bakr (ra) was like Jesus (as), forgiving, ready to overlook the faults of people. Both Umar and Abu Bakr believed in the same Allah (swt) and followed the same prophet.
Muslims come to America from all over the world and bring different viewpoints with them. Things are not like they are back home, whether it is India, Pakistan or Egypt, where it is essentially a homogeneous society. If one is used to homogeneity, it is easy to be the same and expect everyone else to fall in line and be the same also. But that is wrong.
We have different culture, language, and opinions. The concept of unity, however, must tie us together. That means that we agree to disagree and that in spite of our disagreement and differences, we agree to work together. In this way we will know that the focus of our religion is Tawhid, the six articles of faith and the five pillars of Islam. These are the most important aspects of our religion; everything else is small in comparison to these larger aspects. One of our main goals is to establish Islam here in the U.S. It is imperative that we do so.
Allah (swt) has brought us all here for a reason. This society needs our help to show it the right way. If Muslims don’t provide the solution, who will solve the problem of moral decay in America?
But we cannot give someone something that we do not ourselves have. If we do not have the knowledge of Islam and do not practice Islam, we can’t share it with someone else. So first we must become good and knowledgeable Muslims ourselves. We must grow in the light of Islam as a family and as a community. We must teach Islam to our children not with a stick but with sweetness, with example, with kindness. Believe me, brothers and sisters, you cannot force Islam on anyone, least of all on your children.
Many generations of Muslims have come to America but they were unable to pass it on to the following generation because the methods they employed were wrong, One of the earliest generations of Muslims came as slaves from Africa. Because of overwhelming odds against which they had to fight, they were unable to pass it on to the next generation. Then came the first of the Asians and Middle-Easterners, as early as 1900. They too were unable to pass Islam on. Since then wave after wave of Muslims have migrated to America, and yet we struggle to keep the flame of Islam alive! So, which one will you be? Will you be the wave of Muslims who came here and worked for a nice home, nice car and nice clothes and yet lost your children or will you be a part of the group who passed Islam on to your children, shared it with your friends, students and co-workers so that Islam became your legacy here in America? This is the challenge that we face today. We will Insh’Allah succeed if we work together in spite of our differences, love each other in spite of our disagreements and practice Islam as the prophet (pbuh) wanted us to practice it.
Unity in Diversity: Adapted from a speech given on Eid ul-Adha to the South Bay (California) Islamic Community
Originally published in the print edition ofThe American Muslim