Samir Husain – Importance of Community in Islamic Rituals

Community building is a major aspect and theme of Islam and in the Quran. This can be proven using various examples in the history of Islam as well as from the way Islam is set up using its laws, rituals and pillars. From the time of the Prophet (PBUH), community and brotherhood has been an integral aspect of Muslim life. The population of Muslims in the world is known as the Muslim “Ummah” which literally translates into “community”. When the Prophet (PBUH) migrated to Medina, there was an emphasis on brotherhood and how the Medinese were to take in an immigrant back to his home, care for him, and accept him as a brother. Along the same lines, one of the first things that was done by Muhammad (PBUH) was to build a mosque as the center of political movements, prayer and community.

 

The concept of prayer in a mosque and congregation is one of the “rituals” which was mentioned above as building of a sense of community and belonging for everyone. From the very beginning of revelations, there was a prominent highlight on equality of all human beings in the eyes of God, except in their piety and how much they please Him. When all men and women pray towards the same direction, shoulder to shoulder to the one that created them, the class, racial, ethnic and gender boundaries all become null. A poor man will stand next to a rich man, a black man next to a white man, and there is no distinction between any of them in the mosque, as they all gather for the same purpose as brothers and sisters and as a community. This is why congregational prayer is encouraged to such a great extent. There is reward for praying alone in the home, however, the reward for praying in congregation is increased substantially. When the first mosque was built in Medina, it was built so that people could gather and meet each other, share time and food. There is an even greater reward for praying in congregation at this mosque as well as the holy mosque in Mecca, where Muslims go for pilgrimage.

 

This brings up the topic of pilgrimage, more specifically Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is compulsory for “every Muslim who is physically and financially able to undertake the journey” [1], without which his compliance to the will of God is not complete. Hajj is performed by Muslim from all around the world, coming together at a single time during the year. This is usually done in groups. The rituals of Tawwaf and Sa’y are also done in large groups of people. Due to the immense number of people, it is hard to even see significant movement during these rituals and they can “be seen as the perfect image of the “motionless Mover”” in a “human flood” [2]. As mentioned above, praying in congregation at such occasions in Mecca, in front of the Ka’bah grants Muslims a very large reward as opposed to worship in solitude, simply strengthening the sense of community. Directly after Hajj, Eid-ul-Adha is practiced where Muslims all around the world come together in their respective communities and donate meat to the less fortunate as well as enjoy each other’s company and their families during this time.

 

Analyzing Islamic law or Shariah, there is also a form of emphasis on community and its importance in an Islamic context. When someone commits a crime, such as theft or rape, there is a necessity for there to be witnesses to this crime for it to be taken as true, without which the accuser can be punished due to possible slander. This is because, according to the time that this was established, the technology of today did not exist and, without witnesses to such actions, there was room for many false accusations and unjust convictions. Along the same lines, it is obligatory for there to be two witnesses present at the ceremony besides the presence of the individual performing the ceremony. This is representative of how important community is in Islam. Every individual plays a vital role in the life of his or her brother’s or sister’s life in the form of support. Without these individuals, working as a community, none of these laws could be followed and therefore, great importance is given to community and brotherhood in the Islamic law system.

 

Shariah, Hajj and the concept of congregational prayer and mosques in general all represent the importance of community in Islam, even if not directly. After some analysis and interpretation of religious texts and the actions of the Prophet (PBUH), there can be no question of whether the rituals in Islam aim to bring the Ummah together on every given opportunity since God has created human beings to interact with each other, not living a life in solitude. [3]

I affirm that I have adhered to the honor code on this assignment. SH

 

 

[1] Hajj -Gai Eaton, 10

[2] ibis, 15

[3] Lectures – Professor Mahallati, Intro to the Quran