(living as a minority)
by Sister Salima
Hijra is advisable from an openly intolerant and aggressive nation where no dialogue is possible. But there are nations whose foreign and internal policy are not totally restrictive. There may not be equal opportunities, may not always be harmony, may even be blatant persecution, but one can hear the azaan. One is legally able to wear traditional clothes in public without generating suspicion and fear. As long as it is possible to mix with other communities socially as well as in business, there is hope that we may have a beneficial influence on the perception of Islam in the country. Familiarity does more to breed harmony than contempt. Political powers are fond of using ignorance to foster hatred between groups solely for the purpose of ensuring they will never be strong enough to oppose the ruling party.
Some Muslims were born as one of a minority within a larger society, or it may be by choice or as a result of other life decisions. The option may not suit everyone, but it is a great opportunity for indirect dawah. My landlord had rented the upstairs to a family from another community and we learned a lot about each other. The family was with us for two years until their job posted to another town, and I am sure that wherever they go they will be apt to spread goodwill for Muslims in their community. They will be far less likely to believe lies, as they are now witnesses to certain truths about Muslims and Islam as a part of their very lives, and it will remain with them forever. And we have the experience of knowing that we lived together in peace.
There are numerous ways of performing one's obligation as a Muslim. Without going into the technical definitions of the grades and levels of jihad, undoubtedly there is a place for opposition and activism, political dissent or demonstration and even violence. But there are also subtle ways and means which can be applied in certain circumstances that may add to those efforts. It can be seen that all persons have different qualities and attributes which will allow them to fulfill what is required of them as Believers. I would like to elaborate on one of the ways that I have mentioned in my earlier essay entitled Striving in the Cause of Allah.
In simple terms, if we choose it, our task living outside the political confines of an Islamic state is twofold. One part is to invite non-Muslims to Islam, while reminding other Muslims when they have forgotten their duty. But the second part is to stop persecution, oppression and harassment of Muslims and other minorities who live with us in our country. It is not only the oppressed, but the oppressors them selves that are afraid of what they don't understand. We can defuse the fear.
We have been given examples of what attitude to adopt towards unbelievers:
Had not a decree been fore-ordained by your Lord and a term for respite been appointed, judgement on them would have been passed now immediately. (20:129)
Therefore (O Muhammad), endure what they say and glorify your Lord with His praise before the rising of the sun and before its setting, and glorify Him during the hours of the night and at the extremes of the day: perhaps you may feel satisfied. (20:130)
As part of a minority community, we have a golden opportunity to be a living example for Islam; we can demonstrate the principles and ideals of Islam in our dealings with each other and other communities, according to the Qur'an. Starting with the basics, we have to know our deen and practice it. If we are confronted by others with questions or concerns and accusations, we need to be able to answer with truth, logic and respect. We have the obligation to debunk myths propagated by ignorance and/or malice with a sound knowledge of both the Qur'an and Ahadith.
We have also been given criteria as to what kind of language to use when inviting others to Islam:
There is no compulsion and coercion in regard to religion. The right thing has been made distinct from the wrong thing: now whoever rejects taghut and believes in Allah has taken a firm support that never gives way. (2:256)
And O Muhammad!, say to My servants, "They should utter only that which is the best of all. In reality, it is Satan who tries to sow discord between human beings. The fact is that Satan is the avowed enemy of man. (17:53)
We can assume the role of peacemakers, we can promote harmony and understanding by refusing to allow conflicts to escalate into violence. There may be an element of risk involved, depending on the country in which we live. But the more risk we face, the more critical is the need for this kind of work. We need to live our lives with dignity and honor regardless of whether we are the ruling power in a country or not. It is a sacrifice to choose to be a minority, subject to the rule of a government whose philosophy is foreign to our own. But if we are going to expect non-Muslims to live in peace with us in an Islamic State, we need to be able to understand the problems involved; we should be able to prove it is possible.
Sacrifice is a form of submission we can perform solely for the Good Pleasure of Allah:
Declare, O Prophet, my salat and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, Lord of the universe, Who has no partner with Him. This is what I have been enjoined, and I am the first to surrender to Him. (6:162, 163)Tabligh appeals to a certain segment of the whole ummat:
And from among you there must be a party who invite people to all that is good and enjoin the doing of all that is right and forbid the doing of all that is wrong. It is they who will attain true success. (3:104)
If we are able to attract a following towards Islam, that would be the best reward for both them and ourselves. But even failing that, we may be able to develop enough trust and understanding that we gain a dependable and substantial ally (and become one in return) which may prove infinitely valuable in the days and years to come. We must never lose sight of the fact that it is always another minority that is controlling the country, and their hope is that they can keep aflame the hatred and enmity that they have worked so hard to build between Muslims and non-Muslims. Often there are other groups being exploited and persecuted as well as Muslims; if we were able to reach out to them and join forces, it would be to the advantage of all of us who are oppressed. Unity is essential.
Before Islam, Arabs were constantly immersed in tribal warfare:
Hold fast together to the cable of Allah and be not divided. Remember the blessing that Allah bestowed upon you: you were once enemies then He brought your hearts together, so that through His blessing you became brothers. You stood on the brink of a pit of fire and He delivered you from it. Thus Allah makes His signs clear to you that you may be guided to the right way. (3:103)Alliances are forbidden with Hypocrites:
What has happened to you that you have two minds about the hypocrites even though Allah has reverted them, owing to the sins that they earned? Do you want to lead those to the right way whom Allah let go astray? And he whom Allah lets go astray, for him you can never find a way. (4:88)However, we are told to deal more cautiously with Polytheists or those of other religions:
Do not revile those whom they invoke other than Allah, because they will revile Allah in ignorance out of spite. For We have indeed made the deeds of every people seem fair to them. Then, their return is to their Lord and He will inform them of what they have done. (6:108)
This in no way means that we should not disagree with them or explain why we believe what we do, it simply means that it would do more harm than good to curse the gods of someone who is sincere. They can be people with intelligence, sincerity and integrity and they may indeed be trustworthy. A hypocrite, on the other hand, is full of deceit; how is it possible to have an alliance with a liar?
History does indeed repeat itself:
Consequently, by Allah's grace, they routed the unbelievers, and David killed Goliath; and Allah gave him kingship and wisdom and taught him whatever other things He willed. And if Allah had not been repelling one set of people by means of another, the earth would have been filled with chaos. But Allah is bountiful to the world (and so repels chaos in this way). (2:251)
If we look around us in the world today, does it not seem that lines are being drawn, sides are being chosen, and it is time to stand up and be counted? The War to end all wars, WWII, ended more than 65 years ago, but it didnt solve anything. Why did it really happen? Can it happen again? And if it does, which side will you be on?