December 5, 1997
Responses and Solutions For Progress
"Building the Community and Family": Part 1
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
Q. What is your vision and concerns for the building of the community?
IWDM: First, building a community is an obligation on all Muslims and believers who live in Muslim lands or in non-Muslim lands. 1 think having excellent models of community life in a predominantly non-Muslim society is a more conscious demand for us than for citizens of Muslim lands. It is imperative.
It is not something we can say "yes" or "maybe" about. It is "yes," period. We must do this, if we are to fulfill our obligations as Muslims under both the Qur'an - the word of G'd, and the leadership of Muhammed (PBUH) - the Messenger of G'd.
I believe that G'd has given us the community to focus our efforts, be they private, family or other. It is in man's nature to live and achieve in the community. G'd has given him an industrious spirit and nature to want to work and achieve community establishments.
The full picture of that establishment is a community where responsibilities, benefits and opportunities are shared. Man is created for his share of responsibility to G'd for community.
Efforts to have civilized communities started with men going out in the field and facing the rough nature out there in the world, catching the animal, bringing back its meat for the table and its hide, selling what they could not consume to the next community if they could.
After a while the income from their industrious labor and spirit would give them enough money (or good to barter) that they would not need to sleep in a tree, or on the ground, or in a hole in the mountain. They had the time to build a house and make progress. Pretty soon they would have a river boat, or a horse for transportation.
Man is Plural and Singular at the Same Time
I believe for that reason, man is described by some great teachers of Al-Islam and non-Muslims as being a creature who is plural and singular in the same time. He is singular in himself, but he is plural in the possibilities that G'd has made for him. He is plural in the spirit that G'd has given him . He can't live to himself -alone in his mind or spirit.
In that sense, he is a temple within himself that has not one person's interest in it, but has the interest of many in it. He is plural, not in terms of psychology (that means you have a mental problem). Man is plural in terms of his interests and concerns. Therefore, he takes in his family, loved ones and his friends. He takes in the people and his country, and all those interests dear to his heart are now within his mind and spirit.
He lives with them as a plural and complex social organism. He is living the life of one person, and at the same time living the interest of more than one person. This the way G'd created us. When we can express this in the living environment, we are more content and free.
People who are dull and wondering why they are dull spirited, many times it is because they are not motivated to share the responsibility for more persons than themselves. Muslims want to see their brother's life and his family in a state of excellence. All of that is necessary for the fulfillment of our spirit, and our soul's needs won't be fulfilled unless we have that.
The Community Nucleus
Community is the focus for us, and what I see as the most important thing to start with in building a community is the establishment of a nucleus. A Muslim community is established to accommodate the lives of people who believe and worship G'd. Every community will have a house of worship (or many).
Communities are built to accommodate the needs of the family. The first need outside of the home is to have a school to educate our children. Then the community wants to have a township, ordinances, rules and regulations. After a while you will have many jobs and somebody regulating the town, which means government. This is the traditional pattern.
The first step in our plan is to have a place of worship where we can worship and conduct the Friday Jumuah (congregational) service. The next step in our plan is to have the people employed, earning an income to support the other segments of the plan. Therefore, in this nucleus is worship, education and economic achievement. This is the first three.
We already live in a civilized society. We have the township or city, country and state services. As we develop in the three areas of the nucleus and feel comfortable, then we should also want to begin sharing the responsibility for the township and its conditions.
This includes examining the benefits going to citizens from the government. Asking, is it an encumbering government? Is this too much to ask of government, or should we ask for more? All of this should not be just the concerns of non-Muslims. It is the concern of all the citizens. Muslims should take it upon themselves and become a part of the efforts to have the best environment possible for the citizens of the town or area.
Muslims should share in that responsibility, when they are able to free themselves up enough to have the masjid (mosques), schools and employment to support their assets or investments. That is the plan in order of priority or interest.
In my opinion, when it comes to making the "plan" materialize, the steps to success are not always a fixed approach. They say: "Build a masjid first"; we can have a masjid in rented facilities, in our homes, depending on how large the local following.
This means we should study the situation and address how best we can realize the establishment of this nucleus - a place to worship, a private school for our children, and especially support for our men, so that they can have business establishments and employment.
Which one then is the best to start the process? Again, in my opinion, when it comes to implementing this in society, we have to begin increasing the income of the community, if it is deficient. It is more practical when we are terribly deficient in income to first address that need.
While this is being realized we will be worshipping in a rented facility, or at home, or on a piece of land, Therefore, the second effort is to provide decent facilities for the daily and the Friday Jumuah prayers.
Efforts to have civilized communities started with men first going out in the field and facing the rough nature out there in the world, catching the animal, bringing back its meat for the table and its hide, selling what they could not consume to the next community if they could.
After a while the income from their industrious labor and spirit would give them enough money (goods to barter), that they would not need to sleep in a tree, or on the ground, or in a hole in the mountain any longer. They could build a house and make progress. Pretty soon, they would have a river boat, or a horse and wagon for transportation.
All of that is in the mind first, but maybe they don't realize it according to their preconceived notions. Sometimes the last thing is what we should first do in order to best accommodate the first thing.
For instance, when a group effort is terribly deficient financially, it is best to address that issue first and try to create situations to bring in income. And once you have the income, then you can come back to first principles and cause them to materialize.
Again the vision is for a nucleus where Muslim families will be living in close proximity with a masjid facility that also houses a school, or two different facilities. That is number one, along with the creation of businesses. In the nucleus they must all come together at the same time. The building of facilities should include the building of economy housing for the low income residents and decent homes for the leadership (more economically developed).
Q: How does the building of the Islamic community relate to our obligations towards the broader society?
IWDM: We live in a country that is really designed for people like us (Muslims). In its beginning, America had Christians who originally lived in Europe and couldn't live free. They were dominated by the Church of England, which was in power. The Protestant movement headed by Martin Luther broke that grip of the church on the society of Europe, though it took time to realize progress for the freedom of religion in Europe.
While they were still being persecuted in Europe, they saw opportunities to come to this newly discovered land we call America today. Subsequently, the Founding Fathers of this country drafted a governmental plan and political ideology for this society. They drafted it to accommodate those persecuted persons arriving from Europe.
We have evidence and documents that show when they drafted it. They were not unaware that other religions would one day come to America. They planned this new society called America, so that it would attract people of other faiths.
Thomas Jefferson mentioned Judaism or Jews, the Qur'an and Islam, and mentioned Islam as a faith that he desired would one day come to this country and be practiced hare. They, the designers of the ideology, were not only working to have a situation where people who wanted progress for their religion could come to this land and realize that progress. Whereas other lands that did not have this kind of genuine interest in humans have been slow to take up the issue of human equality and freedom.
This country did not feel threatened by man's free spirit but was accommodating, and that would be the strength upon which this country would develop and grow into a powerful democracy. This would be the strength supporting people to have freedom and the full religious life called for by their different faiths.
I am saying this country was made for us (Muslims). That is the point. This country, while it was designed at first for Christians who wanted to live the fullness of the Gospel, it is also a country that was designed for us - Muslims -who want to live the fullness of AJ-Islam and the fullness of the Qur'an, the life and way of our Prophet (PBUH).
The building of the Islamic Community will ease tensions in the non-Muslim community, in that they will see us as a people who compliment this beautiful pluralism we have as Americans. They will see us as a people who are making contributions to the beautiful concept of plural society, with freedom of religion and a pluralistic culture.
By that, I mean: We are not going to have Al-Islam in just spirit, we are going to have it in practice. And that means that your business will reflect the Islamic life. Your diet will reflect the Islamic life. Your product selection for sale will reflect Islamic concerns for halal and excellence.
The clothing you wear will reflect Islamic modesty. Eventually we will have a cultural image in America. And that will not be imposed on us from without, but it will develop from our own learning and life experiences in America. The contributions we will make to the broader society will be great, very much loved, humanly excellent and natural.
Q: What is your vision and concerns for the building of the family?
IWDM: We need Al-Islam to be strong in our families. Al-Islam can't be strong in our families without us having Islamic education for families. We would like to see decent, quality facilities. We want quality environment and staff providing education for our young ones. Our families would be so happy, if we could give them that, and they will give their support to the leaders' efforts in return.
We want to learn about the Islamic life, because not one family is safe in America merely because of the rule of law. We are not safe just under the rule of law. We have to be under the rule of G'd to be safe in this country and elsewhere. Therefore, we must learn more about our religion, so that our lives will become more Islamic.
Q: What should Masajid and Imams focus on to help strengthen the family life?
IWDM: We all should focus on including in our propagation efforts and program agenda for the Imams and leaders, the needs of families in this critical time for families in America and in the world. We should focus on what kind of support they need from us after looking at the kinds of influences that are coming from the outside: The streets, the gangs, drugs, illegal houses of sin, publications of pornographic materials.
The church sees such corruption as problems and issues. We have to be aware that we must do the same. We live in a society with a free enterprise system, and as such, the law will not outlaw many things G'd outlaws. The masjid and its leaders must have a feel for what is needed in our members to increase their awareness and level of consciousness in order to be alert for such dangers.
If something cruel comes in the mail (pornographic material), the parents will be alert and it will never reach the hands of the children. This is very necessary in seasons of moral decadence.
If there are undesirable businesses trying to open up in our neighborhoods, the level of consciousness should be such that the Muslims (or others) will alert the neighborhood or the block and get support to force it to seek establishment somewhere else. By that, I mean it's illegal under G'd, not necessarily under the law of the land.
In many cities they have these hard-core pornographic films for rent or viewing and some citizens are aware, and they force them to keep that stuff out of the residential areas. Sometimes the poorly educated don't have that protection. There may be a place on 46th Street and you and your child live on 46th Street, or maybe near the corner and you and your child will be exposed to corrupting influences.
We must be alert for the opening of taverns (and package good stores). We must be aware that our families need to live in areas where they don't have to pass by a drunk hanging out on the street corner, just because there are so many taverns and places to buy alcohol. The influence of the growth of such places have put drunks all over some neighborhoods. When very poor, we (my family) had to reside in such places.
There are many concerns, and we ought to take up the whole concern for families in order to have more protection against influences that demoralize the family and invite the youngsters to criminal life.
If drug pushers come in the area and tell the youngster that he can have a luxury car and wad of money in his hand, that is a great temptation. We should be alert to protect our families and stop that, before it gets close enough to our youngsters to affect them. We must keep it at a distance (away from them).
If all Americans were alert like this, there would not be much of a place for those people who peddle pornography and drugs in our neighborhood. They would have to go outside of America.
Q: In what ways did Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) lay emphasis on family life?
IWDM: First of all, he said: "To marry is my tradition." That means he came to build and put importance on the institution of marriage. In Al-Islam, there is no sex activity without marriage. Another thing that Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) emphasized is that divorce is one thing that G'd permits, but He hates. G'd dislikes divorce, although he permits it under very serious conditions. This not only speaks for the very strict position regarding divorce, it also says that marriage is a very serious institution.
G'd supports the institution of marriage and wants to see it preserved. He, G'd, wants to see couples married. Celibacy is addressed by Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) when he said: "To marry is my tradition."
In some religious orders, the leadership feels they are not to indulge the appetites of the flesh. So they try to stay away from sex and marriage. When Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said, "marriage is my tradition," he was addressing directly the question of celibacy.
From that particular logic, we can also reason that marriage is an institution of sacred importance to the social nature and social development of society, and it is something we should happily look forward to. The Imams of the world cannot serve the community as single men committed to bachelorhood.
Whatever G'd has prescribed for us in religion is best. He has already created us to have needs and urges in our nature and halal answers. We know that a natural man, without being influenced by modern society's secular interest, wants to one day have a wife. He wants to one day have a mate to whom he is loyal. He is living for her and she is living for him. He is living to have a future with her through their children, and she is doing the
This is the natural evolved order that G'd made. I think that the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) address that natural need in us to have good marriages and not go along with the modern world giving dignity to the deliberate choice of single parent households.