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Let's bring the truest meaning of community to life

Human beings are social creatures, and so it is natural that community is the backbone of human life. From the first creation of a human being, our need for socialization, for human connection, for community has been an integral part of our species.
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Human beings are social creatures, and so it is natural that community is the backbone of human life. From the first creation of a human being, our need for socialization, for human connection, for community has been an integral part of our species. Allah (God) created Adam, and then He Created Hawa (Eve) so that they would share in companionship.

Years later, when Prophet Muhammad and his companions faced persecution for their religion in Makkah, they still gathered nightly in the home of al-Arqam to talk and learn and be together. They later fled that persecution by immigrating to Madinah, where that community welcomed them with shelter, food, clothes, work, and so much more. So much of life in Islam revolves around community, around connecting and being amongst other people. The daily prayers are encouraged to be communal. The most sacred rites are all communal: Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah), weddings, the marking of a baby’s birth, etc.

So what is community? It is literally defined as a group of people living in the same general space, with some shared interest or characteristic. That’s the literal sense of community.

And today we see this definition of community most pervasively. Hundreds of people living in cookie-cutter homes in one community to be closer to the big city. Thousands stacked in high-rises to be walking distance to the subway. So many people so close together, and still almost no connection or communication between them all. A community physically and literally no doubt. Yet loneliness and isolation mark so many of the homes.

But there’s another type of community, one with another layer of meaning: where the feelings of concern for each other’s safety and well-being forges the bonds of connection.  And this is the community that the Prophet often talked about.

“None of you believes until they love for their brother (or sister) what they love for themselves.”

“The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.”

This is the sort of community that we want, that we can build for ourselves and our kids.

A group of people who wants the best possible outcome for everyone around them. A group of people who are connected by kindness and compassion for each other. A group of people who empathize and feel the pain of the others. In short, a group of people who care about each other.

Instead of the culture of me, me, me…we would be a culture of us and ours. The kids down the street would be mentored and chatted with, not shunned for running and playing and bouncing their ball. We would share our food with our neighbours and notice when one doesn’t drag their bin to the curb on garbage day. And not only would we notice, but we would care enough to check if they are ok.

And in this new era of Covid-19, the health of our community would be a concern, not just our own personal health. We wouldn’t think only of our rights, but also of our responsibilities to the people around us.

Its never been easier to bring to reality this realization of a community. Technology in all it’s forms with all the gadgets and devices and forms of social media, leaves us just a fingertip away from each other. As these cold blustery days send us retreating into our homes, let’s reach out and close the gap between each other virtually. Let’s bring the truest meaning of community to life.

Maryam Baksh is a graduate from University of British Columbia. She is a member of the Muslim community in Vancouver and a busy young mother.

You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking at https://www.timescolonist.com/blogs/spiritually-speaking

* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, November 19th 2021