The Meaning of Community:
The writer, Saleha Suleman (Cape Town, South Africa) is a scientist and has been involved in leadership and community service positions from a young age.
ne’s “community, or tribe” can have a different meaning for everyone. It changes according to personal preference, culture and even where in the world you are. In Islam, the presence of a community is something that has been stressed on for ages. But what exactly does it refer to?
There are levels of distinct answers to this question. The most large-scale aspect of the community is the Ummah – this feeling of brotherhood throughout the world, based on one simple belief, Tawheed (the oneness of Allah). On a day-to-day basis, you may not experience this as much as you would expect, and perhaps see it more so when you travel to a new place or meet unfamiliar passersby. Such a feeling goes beyond geographic, ethnic, cultural, and other boundaries. This does not mean that a non-Muslim cannot be part of your community, because regardless of one’s faith, every human being is a creation of the same God. But that is a topic for another day.
“O you mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other [more easily]. Indeed, the noblest among you in view of Allah is the most pious of you.” (49:13)
A more relatable aspect of the community would be the mosque you visit. Perhaps it’s been the same one all your life, perhaps not. But here as well, it is the people that make up your sense of community, your sense of belonging. The people you have grown up around can have a significant impact on how safe you feel in a certain environment. It can shape your thought process and your perspective, it can dictate your moral compass. This is the most common thing that people refer to when saying “my community”.
Is that it though, is that what one’s community is? Perhaps not. The first place that one has an unspoken sense of community is at home. We’ve all heard the saying “charity starts at home”, and the same is quite true for Islam and an understanding of community. Home is where your core values are nurtured, home is where you learn the basic tenets of life. Home is where you learn to love, have faith, and be tolerant. So for every human, this is the first exposure to a community in their environment.
Looking at it this way, there are 3 main levels of the community. The home, one’s mosque, and a universal sense of unity. The Holy Prophet himself has shown us the importance of community in one’s life, and so has Islam. Think about it, Hajj, jamaat namaaz; aren’t they all providing a sense of togetherness? The Quran has even outlined the rights of your brethren on you.
In one word, my community to me means humanity. Kindness from people you don’t know anything about, from people who have nothing to benefit from you. Community is a sense of belonging that we feel and often need, for our mental and spiritual well-being, as social creatures. It is what makes us want to help others, what makes us want to be a part of a common goal. The sense that there is something bigger than us, something universal binding us together.
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