What are Communities exactly and What’s it got to do with our identity?

Ayyad-PadhaniThe writer, Ayyad Dilawar Padhani is in Marketing at his family optical practice. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management, Marketing and related support services.  He has been rendering community services from a very early age.

Community and Self-Identity:


hat Are Communities exactly and What’s it Got To Do With Our Identity?

A community is a group of people who have a shared sense of identity and share certain values and interact with each other to achieve certain goals.

Since humans are social beings, we are in need of social contact, meeting people seeing them and interacting with them, which is probably why we like to form groups and stick together. No wonder there is a huge emphasis in Islam on jamaat namaaz, Friday prayers, rights of the neighbour which span 40 houses in each direction, orphans, widows, and the sick. All of whom we must visit, take care of and try to help especially during their difficult times.

Islam foresaw and knew the impact socialising would have on us and made so many acts in the social space highly recommended.

So what are the values that the Khoja community share, and what are the goals they intend to achieve that bring them close together and keep them united?

The shared ancestry and migration history from India for starters, the shared journey through different religions until reaching Islam, and shared values that have solidified over generations such as taking care of one another, improving ourselves and others whether economically, individually or spiritually, as well as respecting each other. Furthermore, at this stage, the mission of practising and propagating Islam.

The benefits of a community include but are not limited to: 

  • Giving one a sense of identity and belonging,
  • Provide essential social connection and engagement with others,
  • Provides for the strength to cope in tough situations together
  • Enabling easy access to healthy food and
  • Providing safety

Moreover, I would like to discuss the idea of the necessity of a community. Where unknown requires at least a bit of known.

As humans, we grow by imitation and learn through those means as well in our early stages of life. So the phrase think outside the box only applies once we have developed our own thinking.  We often learn by following the traditional pathways of doing things (ie inside the box). Therefore we can only grow out of the box once we have occupied it, and it becomes small for our thinking/doing.

That’s probably why it is often surprising for people to notice or perhaps even criticise or applaud uncommon things – when you are the first person to do something new, you are looked at differently. Whether what you are doing is right or wrong, you have certainly done something different and people noticed. There is a value in growing inside the box, we need some order, and we need to put our foot on solid ground before we can venture out to discover new things and unknown territories. And people are right to look at you differently so that if you are doing something wrong, you should retreat, and if there is a possibility you are right, and you pursue this matter further, they may listen, and perhaps consider a change.

Therefore to answer our question: Is a community a box?

Yes, it is. A necessary box. We need this box for care, support and growth. Imagine a seed put into a pot before being put in the ground. To think properly we need a stable structure to grow into. Afterwhich is when we can grow out of the pot to explore different territories. Suggest what may be wrong with the amount of sunlight, size or location of the pot, or amount of water being given to seeds.

There is no such thing as a perfect upbringing or a perfect community, and all communities ask themselves – what if the community did not have a specific problem? Therefore, as members of a community, we should try to solve those problems to the best of our abilities.

The western way of living, through their prosperity in this world, a test in itself for everyone, has managed to share with the world their way of living and lifestyles to almost everyone around the world through loudspeakers like TV and the internet. People all around the world want Western life. Today a practising Muslim (as far as the obligatory worship actions are concerned) can have the same worldview as a person affected by western values of materialism, secularism, individualism and postmodernism.

We must continue to uphold values of unity, family, and sharing, and delve into the Islamic ideology of living rather than being wastefully extravagant in materialism, or arrogant with secularism for example.

A new year has dawned upon us, so we must reflect on our role in our communities. We are like the small bolts and screws or like the grooves of the gears in a machine like a car or watch, small but mightily important. If even one groove decides to disappear,  the car will stop moving and the time the watch tells over a period will deviate greatly.

As I have often heard, ask what you can do for the community, and not what the community can do for you.

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