Many misinterpret Islam to be a religion that simply and solely calls upon its followers to pray constantly in their private quarters, to remember and praise God with their tongues, and to love and hold God as a priority in their hearts. While these actions are indeed noble and integral to our faith, we must remember the heavy emphasis that Islam places upon community as well.
As our beloved Prophet PBUH once said, “None of you truly believes (in Allah and in His religion) until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim].
And let me guess, you’ve heard this hadith before, right? But has it really sunk in? Have we truly internalized the concept that as equal slaves in front of God given varied provisions, we owe each other whatever excess we have. We owe each other the thought that although we may be living life comfortably, our brother and/or sister across the world (or even across the street) is struggling. And most of all, we owe each other an action to follow this thought.
The Prophet PBUH himself was a living embodiment of this emphasis on community. Before his prophethood was declared, he was first established as an honest and kind man to all those that he knew- to his community, family, and friends. In essence, the Prophet Muhammad himself was a social reformer. After reminding the people around him to only worship one God, his immediate focus was to improve his society and restore morality. One of his very first appeals for example, was to free slaves and to grant women their full rights. After all, the Prophet was sent to be a “mercy to mankind.”
So what does this mean for us?
It means that as Muslims, one of our fundamental roles is to leave the world better than we left it, place joy into the hearts of those around us, and be agents of positive change in whatever capacity we are able; whether that’s in preserving the environment, promoting peace within our homes and even between nations, upholding justice, or simply being a source of solace for all those around you.
Indeed, there are moments in our daily lives that must be intimate conversations with God alone. But living Islam as a lifestyle does not exclusively entail isolation. Worship should not be stagnant or confined to the walls of our hearts- it should be mobile. It should permeate our everyday interactions and push us to give from our time and assets to our global family. Because in the end, internal belief in a beautiful faith is almost effortless… but applying these beliefs and the divine principles that come with them into action is where the challenge is at.
As mentioned in Surat Al-Asr:
“Indeed, mankind is in loss,
Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience” [103:1-3].
Righteous deeds directly follow belief. It’s that simple.
Despite all the technology of this era, we may yet feel utterly disconnected from those around us- whether they may be our brothers and sisters on another continent or our brothers and sisters next door. Because our lives have grown so busy and so wired, we read and scroll endlessly, burying and reincarnating the struggles of others over and over again. But the struggles still exist. And if we have the means to relieve some hunger, some pain, or some lack of resources, it becomes a duty upon us to do so. And this duty, although it may seem daunting, is an easy one. A simple smile, an act of mercy towards one’s parents, a gift to a friend, giving a portion of our finances through the click of a button- with the right intention, all these actions count as charity.