By Imam Murtadha Gusau
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and may His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions.
Dear brothers and sisters! No doubt, today, the Muslim world is going through a period of upheaval due to the division and disunity among them. Wherever Muslims gather, in majority countries and in minority communities, we all keep asking: Why can’t we Muslims be united? Why is there so much disunity, so much hostility between some groups and sects towards others?
The Ummah today numbers about 2 billion followers, and Islam is considered to be the world’s fastest growing religion. Muslims are the majority in a swathe of countries from Morocco to Indonesia, and from Turkey to Sudan. Our Muslim lands cover a strategic area of the world’s oil and mineral resources, as well as its major trade routes. There are significant Muslim minorities in most countries, and there is hardly a place on this planet where Islam does not have a presence. We have no shortage of numbers. But for a variety of reasons we appear to be fragmented and disconnected from each other. The Noble Qur’an urges Muslims to be open-hearted and to respect minor differences of opinion. It also warns us of the grave dangers of disunity, and mutual hatred. Allah Almighty says:
“And hold fast all together by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you) and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favour on you; for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love so that by His grace you became brethren; and you were on the brink of the pit of fire and He saved you from it. This is how Allah makes his signs clear to you, that you may be guided.”
We Muslims are reasonably well aware of our history. But how much have we learnt from it? This Qur’anic verse reminds us how our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) united the tribes of Arabia, whom the Romans and Persians considered so wild, warlike and backward, that they were unworthy of conquest. He moulded them into a nation of supermen. When we Muslims served Allah, when we tamed our egos and subdued our vanity, we became masters of the world. We swept over North Africa, across Spain and southern France, and eastwards to China. Then today, we became greedy and selfish. We began to love our wealth and power. When we forgot Allah, Allah abandoned us and we lost our power and authority. This happened over many centuries. Although our numbers increased, our influence on world affairs declined.
Today we are divided into sects, into different organizations, into dozens, into nation-states and within those divisions, we have further divisions of mutually hostile and exclusive groups. There are Sufis and Salafis, Sunni and Shi’a, etc. We have a rather fragmented and disunited Ummah, an Ummah that often seems to be at odds with itself. How can we start to put things right? Allah the Most High told us in the Qur’an:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”
My great people! This Qur’anic verse doesn’t say, O Muslims! It doesn’t say, O you who believe! It says, O Mankind! This verse addresses every human being. This verse emphasises the essential unity of the human species. Islam is inclusive, not exclusive. Every human soul has Allah’s sacred light within it. When we show respect to others, we also show courtesy to Allah, Almighty.
The principle of Tauhid, Islam’s essential doctrine of Unity, underpins the great diversity of all created things. Within every species, there is tremendous variety. In nature, differences are not a sign of weakness, but a celebration of Allah’s creativity. This is something for us to admire and enjoy, with a sense of wonder and excitement. The variety and diversity we find in the ocean, on land and in the air, are also apparent in our human behaviour. We must not see our human differences as a curse. Rather, it is a blessing. Each and every one of us, has gathered a wealth of experience from different geographical, social and cultural influences. When we all share our experience freely, there is a collective enrichment for everyone.
We must therefore not be impatient with one another. We often hear the complaint that Muslims are not united. But what do we mean by unity? Do we mean that there should be no differences of opinion? Of course not.
Unity does not mean uniformity. We do not have to look the same, speak the same, dress the same, and share each and every opinion unanimously. This is not only unnatural, it’s humanly impossible. Can you imagine it? Life would be so boring!
There are two kinds of unity, which we must try to understand and distinguish clearly: There is a unity of purpose, and unity of opinion. As Muslims we should always be united in our purpose. That means, seeking to please Allah, and serving the advancement of Islam. But we must not be distressed by minor differences of opinion. It is humanly impossible to always have unity of opinion. As long as we keep our purpose clearly in view, there can be many opinions as to the best ways of achieving our goal.
By mutual consultation, sharing our knowledge and experience, we can move forward. If we must disagree on some matter, let us remember the right way to disagree. In a debate, a Muslim’s attitude should always be like this:
“I think I’m right, but I might be wrong; and I think you’re wrong but you may be right!”
If we kept this attitude of humility in all our dealings with one another, no one risks humiliation or hurt feelings in any disagreement. We can debate and disagree in a most agreeable manner, where we always maintain mutual respect and dignity. These are the building blocks of real, lasting Unity.
Dear brothers and sisters! There is a saying that:
“The longest journey is from the head to the heart.”
We know, of course that physically, only a few inches separate the head from the heart, but emotionally and psychologically, it could be many miles, or measured in time, trying to connect head and heart could take months, years, or even forever.
The journey from the head to the heart, is a long and difficult journey. It’s a journey from what we think and say, to what we really believe and do; from the world of thought and speech, to the world of action and commitment. We must shorten that journey, if we want to develop the healthy, well-rounded personality of the ideal Muslim. There is a clear and unmistakable link between our inner world and the world outside. Look at any family or community, and you can read the contents of the head, heart and soul of its members.
Respected servants of Allah! Muslim Unity is not some miracle that, one-day will suddenly fall from the sky. Muslim Unity, the unity of the whole Ummah, will be the reward for much effort, and the culmination of a long process that begins with individual Muslims, and I mean you, and me. We must start that process. We must seek to unite our own mind, body and spirit. We must not say one thing, and do the opposite. Our goal must be, a Unity of thought and feeling, word and action, inwardly and outwardly. In short, we must cultivate integrity of character. Allah Almighty reminds us:
“Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.”
In other words, what is within their hearts and souls. Our illustrious Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was the most perfect of examples. Even his enemies acknowledged that he was always honest, truthful and sincere. There was no contradiction between his head and his heart. His thoughts, feelings, words and actions were of the same substance. There was never even the slightest trace of arrogance, hypocrisy, vanity or conceit in his personality. This was the role model of personal character, on which the Unity of the first Muslim Ummah was based. We need it today as well. Allah the Most High says:
“Verily this Ummah (Nation/brotherhood) of yours is a single Ummah (Nation/brotherhood) and I am your Lord and Cherisher, therefore serve Me (and no other).”
This brotherhood of Muslims will only be as strong as we individual Muslims are strong. We are taught that the best Jihad is the Jihad against one’s ego, Jihad al-Nafs. We need to tame this beast within our breast, our pride. We must learn to submit our will, our ego, our vanity, to the will of our creator, just like Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) taught us. When, and only when, we have made a start on this greatest of journeys, will we earn the pleasure of Allah. And when we earn Allah’s pleasure, we find that we can easily tolerate differences of opinion without getting angry or abusive.
We will then, begin to see the unity of purpose that underpins the wide diversity of Allah’s creation. We will see the good things that bind us together, without being distracted by the petty things that divide us. By keeping our ego under control, by cleansing our hearts of all vanity and false pride, we actually make room for Allah’s divine wisdom, which must follow if we are sincere in our quest for knowledge and understanding. In Hadith Qudsi, Allah tells us directly that:
“I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly even better than that. And if he takes one step towards me, I take ten steps towards him. And if he comes walking to Me, I go running towards him.”
Dear brothers and sisters! What a beautiful and graphic description of Allah’s love and affection towards us! And all He wants, is for us to take that crucial first step! I’m sure that each and every one of us here, would like to be amongst those, towards whom Allah comes running at speed!
Respected brothers and sisters! You all must have heard about the phrase ‘United we stand divided we fall’, Since we have got independence we knew that how important unity is, people can easily break you, crush you and throw you if you are alone, but when you stand together then nobody can touch you. We all know that unity gives us courage, power and strength. We all have heard this phrase because its commonly used in different places. We can see unity even at the workplace, where team members together work in order to complete the target, even in local trains people create groups so that they can help each other. Unity always supports and help, if any team member works alone there can be chances that person get defeated, but if person works as a team chances of success increases.
Initially every business starts at a small level but as expansion happens team increases people in that company increases, because group of people together creates a big and huge company, hence if you want to go fast then go alone, but if you want to go far go together, because unity will give you that power and strength. Nowadays many people try to break this unity because they know if normal people come forward with a unity then no one can break them or not even they can try to touch them.
We people should always stand together because unity not only gives strength but it is also important for survival, not only humans but even animals work together, even in them we can see and notice unity. For example, whenever any dolphin gets hurt other dolphins help that wounded dolphin by bringing her out of water so that she can breathe, so that whenever anything bad happens to other dolphins they can help each other. If you help others only then others will help you, hence stay together so that survival becomes easy and smooth. NEVER ALLOW ANY NEGATIVE INFLUENCE TO BREAK YOUR UNITY, Because some people still try to break us to divide us because they understand the importance of ‘United we stand divided we fall.’
You all must be aware of a story where a father calls his four sons and gave one stick to all of them and ask them to break it, all the four easily broke that stick but when he asked them to break hundred sticks together they failed to do so, hence at that time he said this is what happens when you stay together, if you brothers fight with each other anyone can easily break you and can take advantage of you, but if you four stay together just like those hundred sticks, then no one can ever harm you and can never break you.
Hence always stay united, because when we stay united we stand and face the world with strength power and courage but if we get influenced by someone negative comments which people usually do for their own benefits, or for their own pockets then you will get divided and when we get divided we fall and anyone can break us and can destroy our peace. Hence always stand with unity, unity is very fragile it must be handled with care, we must always be kind to each other, should help each other, we should always learn and improve ourselves and the most important thing we must do in order to maintain unity is to have an open-minded attitude.
Dear brothers and sisters! Why is unity important?
- Unity is needed for our survival
- Unity helps us to grow
- Unity works in wonders for us
- Unity gives us courage
As we all know, unity protects us from all the evil doings, hence we people should help each other and together we should fight and face the evil and negative things, when we together stand only then we get freedom from all kind of negativity. For example, at the workplace you can easily survive when your team support you, your survival becomes easy, even in the case of animals survival needs unity. For example, bat helps each other by sharing their food (blood) so that when they don’t have food they can get help from each other and can survive longer.
Nothing can grow alone, if you want to grow your business you want team members employees, if you want to grow your family you need your partner, if you want to achieve something huge in your life you need to walk together, as it says if you want to grow and want to go far then you need to move together.
Unity gives freedom, unity makes us win, we all can work, we all have the capability to start business but by working together we can win. Individually we are like one drop but together in unity we are like ocean. In this world you will meet different people, and every different people will know something that you don’t, hence by understanding each other we people can learn through each other. As it says:
“I CAN DO SOMETHING WHICH YOU CANNOT, AND YOU CAN DO SOMETHING WHICH I CAN’T, BUT TOGETHER WE CAN DO GREAT THINGS.”
Whenever you see injustice, you feel like saying something, but at the same moment you get afraid, at the same moment when you get support you become brave and stand towards that injustice and face it. You get that courage because you knew that you have people who stand behind you and support you against that injustice, hence in order to deal with any injustice we people should fight together, only then we can see the real and true CHANGE!
In this world everyone wants change, but no one wants to become that change, no one wants to stand first. Everyone wants others to do something about it, but my friends, this is our country, this is our home and we all must take initiative to do something, hence instead of thinking about the change, be that change and help each other, support each other and be kind. We people should always stand together, because unity not only gives us power, strength and courage but it is also needed and very much important for our survival. Allah Almighty says:
“And obey Allah and His Messenger; and fall not into disputes, lest you lose heart and your power depart from you; and be patient; surely Allah is with the patient.” [Al-Anfal 8:46]
My dear brothers and sisters! Let us pray to Allah Almighty, to help us foster Unity and brotherhood.
O Allah, help us to acknowledge our own shortcomings with honesty and humility.
O Allah, please help us to improve ourselves and our behaviour. Help us to increase love and respect for one another.
O Allah, help us to see our differences as a blessing from You, not as a reason for mutual hatred.
O Allah, please strengthen our resolve, our faith (Iman), give us courage and patience to endure the hardship that Muslims face these days.
O Allah, help us to become exemplary Muslims. Let us become an inspiration to other people, just as Your last Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and his Noble Companions are an inspiration for us today.
All praises and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: [email protected] or +2348038289761.