A Moment with Our Prophet, Muhammad (S)
By Imam Zijad Delic
Day 254: Islam Facilitates Citizenship in Action!
It was narrated by Jabir (r) that the Prophet (S) said: “The believer is friendly and befriended, for there is no goodness in one who is neither friendly, nor befriended. The best of people are those who are most beneficial to people.”
عَنْ جَابِرٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الْمُؤْمِنُ يَأْلَفُ وَيُؤْلَفُ وَلا خَيْرَ فِيمَنْ لا يَأْلَفُ وَلا يُؤْلَفُ وَخَيْرُ النَّاسِ أَنْفَعُهُمْ لِلنَّاسِ
Source: At Tabarani, al Mu’jamul Awsat
One very unique feature of Islam is that it establishes a balance between individualism and collectivism – between an individual and a society.
It is concerned about both equally!
Islam holds everyone personally accountable to God.
The Qur’an confirms this reality: “Insan (a human being) shall have nothing but what he/she strives for. And all of his/her effort will be seen” (53: 39-40)
وَأَن لَّيْسَ لِلْإِنسَانِ إِلَّا مَا سَعَى
وَأَنَّ سَعْيَهُ سَوْفَ يُرَى
On the other hand, it also awakens a sense of social responsibility in human beings, organizes them in a society and a state and enjoins the individuals to subscribe to the social good.
In short, Islam neither neglects the individual nor society!
It establishes a harmony and a balance between the two and assigns to each its proper due.
Thus, Islam, in a life of Canadian Muslims, acts as a facilitator or catalyst by which they can fully participate as citizens, actualizing their faith in concrete ways and realizing their potential as contributors to their well-being, that of their own community and of all other Canadians.
Therefore, active citizenship implies not only that citizens be engaged in taking ownership of their rights, but that they also embrace corresponding societal responsibilities that go beyond just holding a passport, or paying taxes.
This level of engagement includes being part of civic decision-making processes (for example, via voting/elections), caring about our society’s cohesion, and building its human, cultural and economic resources – building its social capital.
Canadian Muslims are in Canada to stay!
They are present in every walk of Canadian life.
They are successful citizens who enjoy all the freedoms of fellow Canadians and are living proof that Islam is fully compatible with the fabric and values of Canadian society.
In cases where some individuals are not compatible with Canadian society, Islam and all Muslims should not be held responsible for their faults and actions.
Just as other faiths and their followers are not held collectively responsible for individuals in their midst who are incompatible with Canadian society and its standards.
Canadian Muslims should forget about old questions that dealt with the notion of lawfulness of our participation in non-Muslim contexts (or secular societies).
We should be asking some challenging new questions such as these ones: Why should we not fully participate in our society?
What are some of the internal and external challenges we all must deal with as a faith group?
How could we become more effectively engaged in Canadian society?
What are the best ways to achieve increased engagement and at the same time improve the image of Islam and Canadian Muslims?
How could we help other Canadian citizens?
What do we, as Muslims, have to offer to non-Muslim Canadians and our country as a whole?
How we work together with other faith groups against discrimination and prejudice in Canada?
What are the most democratic methods of challenging discrimination and Islamophobia in Canada and making this country the safest and most peaceful place on earth?
How could be organize ourselves so that citizens of Muslim faith all fulfill their responsibility of voting?
A duty of Canada’s Muslim leadership is to mobilize members of Muslim communities from coast to coast to coast to make a positive impact on Canada’s direction in policies regarding citizenship and engagement.
Being critically engaged through activities such as lobbying and advocacy is not inconsistent with citizenship or with the teachings of Islam.
On the contrary, the right to confront inequality in any form or shape is inherent in the social contract that comes with citizenship and is part of its evolution in a democratic context.
It follows that citizenship, like dialogue, is always fluid and changing.
Understandably, Canadian Muslims feel uneasy when they find obstacles on their path that arise due to misunderstandings or antipathy about their faith or their status in Canada.
In order to be part of Canada’s mainstream societal dialogue, Muslims must be willing to take responsibility for contributing to the common good.
They can no longer hide behind the negative perspective that sees fellow Muslims as “us” lined up against the non-Muslim world of “them.”
While some media and politicians still try to perpetuate this counterproductive notion, major Muslim leadership and their organizations have to work hard by removing these barriers in the way of a truly fulfilled understanding of what citizenship means in our great Canadian homeland.
Canadian Muslims need to return to a more authentic understanding of Islamic traditions around citizenship and citizens’ active participation.
Islam teaches that one must respect the social contracts of the structured political and social communities one belongs to.
Being a Canadian citizen fully illustrates a proper understanding of Islamic values, which unequivocally spell out the duties and responsibilities of citizenship.
Citizenship and Islam comprise core values which are complementary, not contradictory.
In this context, Islam demands from the major Muslim organizations across Canada finding better ways to engage their members and communities in more open conversations among themselves (intra-faith), as well as networking with non-Muslims (interfaith) about chronic social problems and challenges that concern us all, such as poverty, domestic violence, discrimination, human rights, education, etc.
These issues, as well as the various ways in which they are addressed, play an important role in how individual Canadians – Muslim and non-Muslim alike — relate to other individuals and social groups.
Many Muslim organizations and institutions (including mosques and Community Centers) are coming on board, utilizing their position, status and influence to promote positive engagement with issues that affect us all at one time or another.
Canadian Muslims need to look toward a future that is built on open dialogue about who we are, what we stand for, and what our purpose is here in Canada.
By embracing this as part of our future, we will become more aware of shortfalls within our Muslim communities as well as within our society at large.
Only when we all work together and tackle our collective problems as faithful, responsible and respectful citizens will we succeed in creating a healthy and vibrant environment – an environment where each citizen will feel at home and be an effective contributor to the common good of all people of the nation.
Let me conclude by saying that Islam entirely encourages the participation and engagement of Canadian Muslims with our wider society as an inherent part of our religious intellectual tradition and the essential element of Canadian Muslim identity.
As well, the promotion of mutually beneficial relationships across the diversity and breadth of Canada’s many Muslim communities reaps many rewards in helping to foster a climate of more active and interested citizenship.
Building a healthy Canadian society is not only the aim of the country’s laws and constitution; it is also what Islam requires of Canadian Muslims.
Our life as good, faithful, engaged and contributing citizens is also our Muslim life!
Ya Rabb! Enlighten us with open mind so that we work with other Canadians towards the commong good!