Community: Conflict or Harmony? Part 3

By Mohamedarif Suleman,

(Nairobi, Kenya)

In concluding the series that touches on our “rule of government” in as far as persons and personalities are concerned, a closer look at the general membership – the third and last category of our organizations, is imminent.

Mathematicians, statisticians and social scientists are well familiar with the normal or parabolic curve and the implication in social setups. For the benefit of the others who may not have acquainted themselves with this affair, a normal curve (one rising from absolute zero towards a certain apex point or peak, and then falling off towards the other end of the point of origin, forming a parabola shape in the process) really represents the composition of any general setup. It is thus translated that in any society, there neither exists the highest number of people (peak/apex) who are not inclined to any extreme, i.e. they are neither for nor against any subject, policy or idea, and are clearly neutrals. The are moderately active in social progress or equally passive. In contrast, the two extremes represent, one end of the continuum that is made of active and energetic people, or a group that is for a certain motion. The other end, near the point of zero, comprises of those individuals who are least inclined to the others. They are nil in contribution, or are best at critically opposed to all other things that the opposite extreme stands for. This is how we actually derive those common political terms such as “leftists” or “extreme right”, etc. But it is the peak of the curve, the general membership that we are really concerned with in this scope of discussion.

Having churned out a long mathematical explanation to the class of people we are now dealing with, it is sufficiently relative to suggest that most of our members are silent, passive and those who are prepared to “blow with the wind”. You will inevitably find them in large numbers at election meetings as a vital electorate and sordidly absent during other general meetings. Whichever way, they seldom speak and are usually nodding to the best argument on the floor, or a personality that rules the day.

As boring as this class of people may seem to be, they are also what economists would call risk averse subjects. They prefer to be in alignment with whatsoever is in the seat and frequently keep their opinions to themselves, or occasionally locating those individuals who they think might adequately represent their views. They are a great silent majority, whose only prowess is the vote in their hands. But it is their numbers that makes a success of failure out of any function or event.

Whether we belong to the first, middle or third class or the community (wherever we are on the curve), there are a few things we must be able to realize in order to abstain from naivety. Our communities, unlike other organizations, have a dual system of governance. It combines the professionalism of a formal organization with the traditional aspects of a closed family structure. Also, the organizations run to serve two further purposes – one to attain the pleasure of Allah (SWT) and the other to cater to the needs of the membership, both congregational and individual.

But one cannot escape asking a few important questions if a proper conclusion is to be drawn out of this sequel of events. Must we always submit to this fact that leaders will always emerge from a wealthy class, that in fact, and as per the constitutions of various Jamaats (bankruptcy clause), it is only an economically stable individual that can take the lead? Of course, the original purpose has been to dissuade people from entering into Jamaat “politics” for reasons of material profit as we now see in national politics, for instance. And yes, it is true that a leader usually has to expend more that what his description entails, in terms of material, human and time resource, and therefore it can only be done by a person whose status is sound; but have we been able to offer any check and balances against the misuse of this original idea? Do we today not see the class structure that our prophets sought to dismantle in every society they went to?

Another glaring question is whether our systems, dependant on the dual systems mentioned earlier, must continue with this retrogressive manner of, say, funding, whereby the “begging bowl” is always out. For projects massive in size and numerous in count. Must there always be increased pressure on a people who have funded these institutions for ages, but are now either incapacitated or indisposed to further giving? When will all these giant institutions achieve self sustainability so that they now begin to genuinely and impartially look after its populace?

And lastly, are the organizations able to attain the pleasure of Allah (SWT), when the number of disgruntled people increases at the end of every end of term in office? When the politics of the day are actually promoting the anti community spirit rather than creating future stalwarts, is there any pleasure involved? On other hand, when accounts are being doctored practically everywhere in our jamaats (usually without any ill motive, but with the objective of meeting deadlines and allowing for furtherance of operation), when many less fortunate members are looked down upon, when welfare cases are ridiculed, when education, medical, housing are all linked to certain foundation funds that never seem to kick off, are we really pleasing the people we intend to serve?

But it would be gross to state that our leadership and our system are poor or that they are meant to serve a particular class of people, for in reality it is the system and not the leaders or the workers, that needs an upgrading (not an overhaul). With changing times, more contemporary relevance has to be brought to fore so that the original foundations of this glorious society standing on its feet today, and in fact an envy of others, is not dissolved like inexpensive perfume with increased external influences. Being the envy of others is not reason enough to think all is well, just as asking a few nagging questions may not really be a proper definition of outright and destructive criticism.

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About the author

Mohamedarif is a marketing professional and educationalist with a penchant for writing as a hobby since childhood. As he experimented writing about sporting events at first and then current affairs, he quickly developed a skill for observation of his environment and began to write on reform topics, especially in connection with the community. To further feed his pursuit of writing, he founded several newsletters and bulletins at his school and at the Husayni Madrasah in the 1980's, all the time learning from others already in the field not just about writing, but also about pre-press and production processes. He was also the editor-in-chief of the Knowledge Magazine in 1995–1996. A decade later, importing a flurry of ideas into his new home, Nairobi, he first founded a two page community newspaper then became a regular writer of the Friday Faculty before establishing the Community on Friday, a fully fledged Madrasah magazine in 1996. And while his writing at the community continued, he simultaneously started writing for a business weekly, pairing in with his newfound role as a marketing professional. During his time in Nairobi, he wrote several speeches for sitting chairmen and presidents while also giving some himself, developing his concurrent role as a public speaker and trainer.

With changing times and a decrease in advertising sponsorship, as well as a fall in overall readership, Mohamedarif transformed this publication into an electronic blog. Thus was born the Community on Friday in its present format.

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