Guest Post: Defining Our Community

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Guest post by Zuhair Shaath. Zuhair graduated from George Mason University with a B.A in Religious Studies. He is currently completing his Imam and Community Leadership Graduate Certificate from Hartford Seminary. He resides in sunny California where he works as a Programs Manager and Assistant Imam. He has a decades worth of work with youth, and currently helps consult with Youth Directors and programs across the nation. 

com·mu·ni·ty

noun

  1. A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
    1. “Rhode Island’s Japanese community.”
  2. A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
    1. “The sense of community that organized religion can provide.”

When we look through the Muslim world today, we see many nations and states with Muslims flowing through the streets and mosques occupying every street corner. I remember when I went to ḩajj in 2007. We were visiting a local city, and, when the ‘adhān was called, all we had to do to pray in a mosque was walk right across the street. One thing that I noticed, however, was that the mosques were not filled with fliers along the wall. In fact, other than the short talks immediately following the prayer, there were hardly any programs at all. I was stunned.

Growing up, I constantly heard about how the Muslim communities overseas and “back home” were much better and more vibrant than the communities in the West were. Yet, here I was, standing in a mosque that had little to no programming: no potlucks, no youth group, no family nights, no field trips, no weekend school — you get the picture.

The reason I was so disappointed was because western Muslim communities defined the word community differently than those of Muslim majority countries. While communities “back home” fulfilled the first definition posted, our communities in the west have less to do with a physical locale and much more to do with the growth and development of Muslims in the West.

As we continue to develop and grow, we see many Muslim communities in the States begin to develop with both definitions in mind: a Muslim community that serves the needs of the Muslims as well as the general public at large. In doing this, we need to accept and hold on to the fact that Islamic Centers develop a place not just for prayer, but a place for community development to take place in.

They say “One is too small a number to achieve greatness” and I wholeheartedly believe that. Your input is not just wanted, but needed. Please feel free to contact me with your thoughts on the direction our community is moving towards.

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters, Qalam Institute, Muslim Strategic Initiative, and Debt Free Muslims. He is a regular khateeb and has served in different administrative capacities in various national and local Islamic organizations. He works full time in the corporate field, is a PMP, and certified Leadership Trainer through the John Maxwell Team. You can follow him on on Twitter @ibnabeeomar, and check out his latest project - The Fiqh of Social Media.

Omar UsmanGuest Post: Defining Our Community

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