The Value of Unity
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 ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren. (AL IMRAN: 103) And be not like a woman who breaks into untwisted strands the yarn which she has spun, after it has become strong. Nor take your oaths to practise deception between yourselves, lest one party should be more numerous than another: for Allah will test you by this; and on the Day of Judgment He will certainly make clear to you (the truth of) that wherein ye disagree. (AL-NAHL: 92) And (He commandeth you, saying): This is My straight path, so follow it. Follow not other ways, lest ye be parted from His way. This hath He ordained for you, that ye may ward off (evil). (AL-AN’AM: 153) And fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart; and be patient and persevering: For Allah is with those who patiently persevere. (AL-ANFAL: 46)
The Concept of Unity:
Unity, as a moral value, implies assimilation to the group. It is expressed whenever we perform or participate in some activity as partners in the endeavor, all at one time, or, to achieve a common goal, the benefits of which will be distributed among most of us. Unity cannot achieve stabilization within a group unless each individual accepts and treats participation therein with respect, regardless of how small a single contribution might be.
The Noble Qur’an introduced the idea of a brotherhood based in faith. God Most High said, ” The Believers are but a single Brotherhood: So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear Allah, that ye may receive Mercy.” He warned the faithful against factionalization and falling into argumentation when He u said, “fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart; and be patient and persevering: For Allah is with those who patiently persevere.”
By way of Al Nu’aman Ibn Basheer, who said, “The Messenger of God said, ‘The parable of the faithful, as regards their love one of another and the mercy which they bestow upon each other and the mutual affection among them is that of a single body; if one part of it suffers all of the body’s other components seek to obtain help right along with the injured portion thereof, by means of restlessness and fever.”
Here is an example of the Prophet striking a parable about the unification and interconnectedness of the faithful, assisting the faithful in attaining active comprehension of what interdependence among members of a society implies. The striking of parables is an effective educational tool, particularly in cases where the parable is, due to its sensory nature, widely understood by all who hear it.
By way of Abu Musa Al Ashaary, who tells us that the Prophet said, “The faithful, one to another, are as a single structure, each part of which supports various components thereof,” whereupon He interlaced his fingers.
Similarly, it shows the Messenger of God ’s exemplification of his message regarding the unity of the community of believers by means of hand gestures, bringing forth strong characters who feel connected both to their own souls and the larger community.
By way of Ibn Abbas, who said, “The Messenger of God remarked, ‘The hand of God is with the group.’”
This is an elegant metaphor depicting the bestowal of God's u blessings and kindness upon coherent, well-integrated communities.
The Role Worship Plays in Establishing Unification as a Value:
The gathering together of Muslims in performing acts of worship and duties constitutes continuous character discipline both at the individual and societal level, fostering both individuals and communities in expressing the moral value known as unity. Indeed, prayers are as a drill in how to work together with one purpose in a communal fashion, with both unity and integration. Each participant carries out his particular duties therein; they gather together in deference to the prayer leader, who is entrusted to perform the prayer, using his own mind to choose which surahs to utter, on behalf of the united group which prays behind him.
The congregational prayer, which is held each Friday around noon, offers a weekly opportunity to gain practice at how to engage in debate, teaching, and researching possible solutions to ailments which afflict Muslims and the mistakes they make as a result of acting contrary to the methodology of spiritual discipline set down by Islam. God u says, “ O ye who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the Day of Assembly), hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of Allah, and leave off business (and traffic): That is best for you if ye but knew! And when the Prayer is finished, then may ye disperse through the land, and seek of the Bounty of Allah: and celebrate the Praises of Allah often (and without stint): that ye may prosper.” This sort of practice and drilling was common in the study circles established by the Prophet s, during which attention was paid to imparting spiritual discipline, narratives stressing the importance of reconciliation and repentance. It was pretty well guaranteed that morals and manners would be addressed therein, right along with fruitful analyses of character-development scenarios.
A lesson in unity and sticking together presents itself five times daily insofar as the Prophet preferred that the five daily prayers be offered as group prayers rather than as individual undertakings. In these meetings given rise to by prayer people are afforded the opportunity to respond to one another and show respect for others as distinct persons, getting to know how they are and what they are in need of, patiently attempting to relieve neediness or, at the very least, to lessen its impact by assisting them in whatever manner is possible. By way of Abdullah Ibn Umar, from whom we hear that the Messenger of God said, “Prayer offered in communion with a group is twenty seven degrees preferable to prayer offered individually.”
Among the things which take place during prayer that tend to serve as practices in observing unification as a value are the following:
In prayer, those who participate therein simultaneously vocalize the word “amen,” (which means, “let it so be.”) uttering the word out loud, in but a single breath, following the recitation of Surat Al Fatiha.
The unification of the prayer-group into straight, neatly-organized lines Those who are praying are united in facing but a single direction Teaching organized behavior as well as respect for appointments Performing a single task under the direction of a single person at a specific time, that person being the prayer-leader
Obtaining feelings of tranquility and serenity, which, naturally, which leave their marks upon the person’s soul, rendering ever dearer to them love, peace, and forgiveness. In the prayers which are recited silently nothing breaks that serene silence other than the prayer-leader’s refrain of “God is Great.”
The sacred law constantly links the exterior aspects and interior elements of acts of worship, the positive results of which are reflected in social behavior. Among the proofs of this is that God u made righteous prayer an orchard, the fruit of which is the behavior of the worshipper; prayer prevents them from falling into vulgarity, hateful behavior, and oppressiveness, as is evidenced by ” Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And Allah knows the (deeds) that ye do.”
An accepted pilgrimage, which washes away the sins of the pilgrim, is one in which sexual behavior, engaging in vices, and engaging in argumentation are all avoided.
God u tells us, “For Hajj are the months well known. If any one undertakes that duty therein, Let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling in the Hajj. And whatever good ye do, (be sure) Allah knoweth it. And take a provision (With you) for the journey, but the best of provisions is right conduct. So fear Me, o ye that are wise.”
Fasting is both an act of spiritual discipline and one of refinement. God u has enjoined it upon the faithful in order that piety and righteousness -- involving both the physical and verbal aspects of each-- may be put to the test. It is, perhaps, for that reason that the Messenger of God said, “Whoever is unwilling to leave false statements and such actions as they lead one towards, God u is in no need of his leaving off consuming his foods and beverages.”
By way of Abu Huraira we hear, “The Messenger of God said, ‘Fasting is a protection. Therefore, if any one among you is fasting, let him engage neither in innuendo nor act ignorantly. In the event that another attempts to provoke him, let him state, two consecutive times, “Truly, I am fasting.”’”
As far as Pilgrimage goes, it drills into Muslims numerous aspects of unity, among them:
The simplicity characteristic of the garments, which are characterized by simplicity and identity of appearance.
The chant recited by both pilgrims attending the annual Hajj as well as those performing the lesser pilgrimage, a rough translation of the meaning of its opening words into English yields, “At your service, most honorable God ; at your service” is recited by each type of pilgrim when they first enter into the state of Ihram as well as throughout the time they are performing the rites of Pilgrimage.
The Pilgrimage, both greater (Hajj) and lesser (Umrah), are massive gatherings comprised of individuals hailing from many different nations and characterized by numerous ethnicities and phenotypes.
The Manner in which the Prophet Set Down the Best Example of how to Maintain Solidarity And Unity through Communal Efforts:
By way of Al Barra’, who said, “The Prophet transported soil on the Day of the (Battle of the) Ditch until, when his abdomen was so thoroughly covered in dirt one might say he was submerged there-in, He stated:
Were it not for the Grace of God, never would we have been guided; Never would we have given Alms nor would we even have offered prayers ,Yet, tranquility and serenity have been sent down upon us Giving constancy to our stand in whatever we face Truly, they, first, did transgress against us If it be that they wish to cause doubts, indeed, we refuse that Then, He raised it up by means of his voice, repeating, ‘We refuse; we refuse.’”
Unity comes into being when there is a common goal, hope, or vision which the community, as a whole, strives to achieve. It entails practicing the value known as unification and cooperative carrying out of duties in such a way that the group acts as but a single hand. It was exemplified by his seriousness of purpose as he assisted in undertaking work. He used practical participation in actual chores as an effective means of instilling character discipline. Exertion in performing difficult tasks leaves a mark engraved upon the minds of humanity which serves as an indelible practical example not easily forgotten by those possessed of high manners and morals.
Joint effort (a manifestation of unity) renders difficult work manageable, making the carrying out of such work not merely possible, but enjoyable. The idea ditch-digging as a military strategy was a new idea which had not previously been known to the Arabs. When Quraysh approached and saw that a massive ditch had been dug around Medina they were taken aback. Upon seeing it, they were certain that resolute, patient people had brought that huge ditch into existence and that, no doubt, such people would receive aid and come out victorious.
By way of Anis, who said, “The Muhajirun (Immigrants) and the Ansar (Muslims indigenous to Medina) started to dig a ditch around Medina, transporting the dirt upon their backs, saying, ‘We are those who have pledged allegiance to Muhammad and accepted Islam, having left everything behind.’ The Prophet responded to that by saying, ‘Oh God Most High, there is nothing which is of value other than that which is of value in the Afterlife; therefore, bless both the Muhajirun and the Ansar.’”
By way of Jabir, who said, “We were, on the Day of the Ditch, digging when we hit solid earth, whereupon a group went to the Prophet and said, ‘We have hit immovable earth within the ditch digging parameters.’ Then, He said, ‘I am going down.’ He arose, a stone tied upon his abdomen. We had gone three days not so much as tasting a single bite of food.
Then, the Prophet took hold of a tool and struck the ground, whereupon it transformed into flowing sand, upon which I said, ‘Oh Messenger of God, allow me to go to my house.’ I then said to my wife, ‘I saw something in the Prophet which seems unbearable, so, do you have anything?’ She said, ‘I have some grains and a she-goat.’ It was then that I slaughtered the she-goat and she set to work at grinding the grain, then, when the meat was placed within the pot, at that point I went to the Prophet s, while the dough was being formed into loaves and the meat was nearly cooked, and said, ‘A bit of food have I, so, please get up, oh Messenger of God, as well as one or two other men.’ He asked, ‘How much is there?’ and I told him, whereupon he said, ‘It is plentiful and good.’ He then said, ‘Instruct her to remove neither the pot nor the bread from the stove until I arrive,’ then saying, ‘Get up, the lot of you,’ whereupon the Ansar and the Muharijun arose. When he came to his wife the man said, ‘Woe to you; the Prophet is en-route along with the Muhajirun, the Ansar, and all who are with them.’ She responded, ‘Did he question you?’ to which I responded, ‘Of course.’ He said, 'Come on in and press not one upon another,’ and He proceeded to distribute the bread, placing meat upon each portion, covering the pot as it sat upon the stone stove each time he took a serving out of it. He would go near his companions and then withdraw, and he did not cease to break the bread nor to spoon out the meat until they were satiated. Even then, there were left-overs, and He said to my wife, ‘Eat this, then, distribute it among the people; truly, the people have been seized by hunger.’”
This story is demonstrative of the elevated nature of unity and integration within the larger society.
It illustrates the unity which can follow the performance of a single deed performed at a specific time in order to achieve a common goal. Unity is the corner-stone of the feeling that one belongs, and it increases the wealth and blessings of the group. Acting with unity of purpose produces excellence and happiness and causes us to feel that we are one family. The Prophet in his role as an in culcator of character discipline, did not content himself with mere verbal instructions and the promulgation of commands. Rather, he was in the habit of actively inserting individuals in fieldwork, sharing with them its duties, which caused them to feel that they were like unto him s. He was concerned about what concerned them, which propelled them into exerting effort earnestly and in such a manner as it was clear that they were intent upon achieving their goals.
This type of instruction in character discipline is of the sort which naturally gives rise to an elevated opinion of the instructor among his students, bringing out of them excellence as they strive to please him and earn his affection. Indeed, the Messenger of God participated in the manual labor undertaken to construct the mosque in order to give rise among the Muslims to the desire to take part in the work. Thus did both the Muhajirun and the Ansar take part in its construction, competing there-in. One of the Muslims remarked, regarding that, “Were we to sit still as the Prophet labored that would have been, on our part, misguided conduct.”
Practical participation and being in a state of unity with the larger group spreads the spirit of affection and brotherhood even as it contributes to the establishment of strong human bonds between the educator and those to whom he is imparting character discipline.
Unity means Assisting Others by means of Giving:
By way of Jurayr Ibn Abdullah, who said, “It was fore-noon and we were gathered around the Messenger of God when he was approached by a crowd of sword-wielding, bare-footed, scarcely-clothed in rough garments patched together out of wool, most -if not all- of whom hailed from MuDar. We observed the Messenger of God ’sfacial expression transform into one of anger at the sight of them in such destitution.
He went in and re-emerged, having ordered Bilal to make the call to prayer, whereupon he arose, prayed, and gave us a sermon, saying, ”O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;- reverence Allah, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (That bore you): for Allah ever watches over you.” And recited also the verses of Surat Al Hashar: “Fear Allah, and let every soul look to what (provision) He has sent forth for the morrow.” He exhorted us, saying a man may offer alms out of his dinars, dirhams, clothing, wheat-stores, and date-stores; he kept on mentioning items until he arrived at, ‘Even if what he can give away in charity is no more than half a date.’” He said, “Then, a man from among the Ansar arrived with a bundle so large that his hand was nearly unable to contain it, rather, with a bundle so large that his hands, indeed, did fail him.” He continued, “Then, the people followed his example until such time as two large stacks of food and clothing had accumulated, whereupon I saw that the Messenger of God ’sface was glowing with happiness. Then, the Messenger of God stated, ‘Whoever establishes, in Islam, a good tradition and manner of accomplishing things shall be rewarded not only for his personal efforts and the establishment of a gracious tradition, but for the rewards due unto all who follow the tradition which he established ever afterwards, none of which will reduce the rewards given to those who come later in the least bit. Likewise, whoever establishes, in Islam, an evil tradition shall be liable for the punishment due to him for having set up an evil tradition as well as the punishments accumulated by those who follow his evil tradition thereafter, none of which shall diminish their punishments in the least.’”
By way of Abu Said, who tells us that a man entered the mosque on a Friday as the Messenger of God was delivering the Friday sermon, whereupon he said, “Perform two units of prayer.” Then, on the following Friday, the Prophet was delivering his sermon, whereupon he said, “Perform two units of prayer.” Then came the third consecutive Friday and Hesaid, “Perform two units of prayer,” following that up by addressing the congregation, saying, “Give charity.” So, they offered charity, and he gave the man two garments. Then Hesaid, “Give charity,” and he threw down one of his two garments. Then, the Messenger of God said, “Did you not look upon him such that you noticed he had entered the mosque in a state of disrepair? I had hoped that you would be clever, figuring out he was in need, and bestow charity upon him. But, you did not, so I said, “Give charity.” It was then that you gave charity, and I gave him two garments; then I said, ‘Give charity’ and he threw down one of his two garments. Take your garment.
Gathering Together for Meals as Practice at Unification:
By way of Wahshy Ibn Harb we hear that the companions of the Prophet said, “Oh Messenger of God. We eat, yet our hunger is not satiated.” He replied, “Might it be, perhaps, that you are splintering into different groups?” They said, “Yes.” So, he said, “Then, gather together at mealtimes and pronounce God's name over it; He will bless it.”
By way of Jaber we hear that the Prophet said, “The food which is most beloved in the sight of God is that which has many hands passing over it.”
By way of Abu Huraira, who said, “By God, other than whom there is no divine being, I was in severe hunger, strapping rocks across my abdomen, so great was my hunger. Indeed, I was sitting along the path they traversed when they set out and Abu Bakr passed by me, whereupon I questioned him regarding a verse from the Book of God. I did not ask him except in the hopes that he would feed me, but he passed me by without doing so. Then, Umar passed by me and I asked him about a verse from the Book of God for no other reason than in order that, perchance, he would feed me, but he did not do so. Then, Abu Al Qasampassed by me, smiling upon catching sight of me, and he recognized what was going on inside of me and upon my face. He then said, “Oh, Abu Al Hirr,” to which I responded, “At your service, Oh Messenger of God,” and he said, “Come on.” He then went along the path, I following behind him.
He went inside and asked if I might come inside, permission for which was granted. He then went in and found some yogurt in a vessel. Then, he said, “Where did this yogurt come from?” The response was, “Such and such a person presented it.” He said, “Abu Hirr,” to which I responded, “At your service, Oh Messenger of God,” to which he responded, “Go to the People of the Wool and invite them on my behalf.” He continued, “The People of the Wool are Islam’s guests, having neither family, money, nor anybody to make recourse to.” Whenever charity was bestowed upon himhe would send it, having taken nothing whatsoever of it, to them. Whenever a gift was bestowed upon him he would send for or to them, either taking part of it for himself or gathering with them to partake of it.
This bothered me, so I said, “And what will this yogurt do for the People of the Wool? I, myself, am more deserving of a portion there-of; a drink, with which to reconstitute my strength. However, when he came, he ordered me and I myself did serve them, thinking that I would not get any portion of that yogurt, and there was nothing for it but to obey God and His Messenger. Thus did I go and invite them, and they accepted the invitation and, upon arriving, asked permission to enter. They were allowed so to do, each one of them finding his place within the house in which to sit. Hesaid, “OH Abu Hirr,” and I responded, “at your service, oh Messenger of God,” to which he said, “Take this and distribute it among them.” He continued, “So, I took the vessel and gave a man a chance to drink out of it, which he did, passing it on by giving the vessel back to me, whereupon I would serve a man, who would drink, passing the vessel back to me, then, another would drink and pass it back to me. This went on until I came to the Prophet s, the rest of the group having already been served. He took the vessel and placed it in his hand, then, he glanced at me and smiled, then saying, ‘Abu Hirr,’ to which I responded, ‘at your service, oh Messenger of God,’ and he said, ‘It’s just you and me who are left now, right?’ I responded, ‘You speak truth, Oh Messenger of God.’ Then he said, ‘Sit and drink.’ So, I sat down and drank, and he again said, ‘Drink.’ This he said over and over, ceasing not to say it until I said, ‘No, by He who has sent you with the truth; I am unable to ingest anything else.’ He then said, ‘Then, give it to me,’ and I gave the vessel to him, at which point he praised God and pronounced His name upon it, then, he drank what was left of it.’”
Therein is an example of how to instill lasting feelings of unity and solidarity among members of a group. Certainly, the Messenger of God was aware of Abu Huraira’s need for food, but he was not satisfied with feeding him alone. Rather, he preferred to bring others in so that they might share with him. This demonstrates the love which the Prophet had for his companions as well as the way in which their lives were wound together. Here you see him smiling at them in order to lessen the pains through which they were going and make it easier for them to face hardship.
Herein did the Prophet set forth the Shariah’s parameters for manners, which ought to be adhered to in cooperative efforts. Detailed instructions are given as to how gathering together for food can be accomplished. Indeed, those very manners had lasting effects upon the character discipline of the group, refining the manners and morals of the Prophet ’s companions. It taught them not to behave gluttonously -following neither vain desires, lusts, nor whims- as they set about to procure things.
Among these manners is the use of a single hand, the right hand, with food. Another part of table manners is that each person ought to eat of the food which is near him. Umar Ibn Abu Salama said, “I was a lad in the company of the Messenger of God, my hand roaming indiscriminately around the platter, when the Messenger of God addressed me, saying, ‘Oh young man, pronounce God's name upon that which you eat, use your right hand for eating, and eat the portion which is nearest to you.’ Ever afterwards I did, indeed, follow those instructions at every meal.’”
Among these manners, also, is the act of asking permission of the host to bring along anybody who was not invited to the meal. By way of Abu Masood Al Ansari, who said, “There was a certain man from among the Ansar who was known as Abu Shuaib who had a son who was a welder. That man caught sight of the Messenger of God and could tell, from his face, that he was hungry. He said to his son, ‘Do not fail me; prepare food for us sufficient to five persons. Truly, I intend to invite the Prophet ; he shall be the fifth of five guests.’” He continued, “That he did do, then, he went to the Prophet and invited him as the fifth of five guests, and a man followed the group. When they reached the door the Prophet said, ‘This person followed us; if you wish, you may grant him permission to attend; if you wish, he will go back.’ He said, ‘No; rather, I grant him permission, oh Messenger of God. ’”
Another of these manners having to do with food and meals is the custom of inviting the wealthy as well as the impoverished to participate in wedding feasts. By way of Abu Huraira we hear, “He used to say, ‘The worst of food is that food which is served at weddings to which the wealthy are invited and from which the impoverished are excluded. And whoever does not come when he is invited, such a person has disobeyed God and His Messenger.’”
Unity Expressed as Sharing with others during times of Disaster:
By way of Abdullah Ibn Amru, who said, “The Messenger of God said, ‘The blood of all Muslims is equal in value. The lowliest among them is just as safe and well protected is the mightiest there-from. None has the right to invalidate a trust given by one who is less well off than the others, even if that trust be extended to a person who follows another religion; trusts are not to be broken. They are a united front against those who oppose them. Their strong protect and share with their weak; those among them who go forth share with those who stay behind. No believer shall be killed in recompense for an unbeliever, nor shall any who has a compact, so long as his compact endures.