A framework for a model Islamic Ummah (community)
In a larger sense, the 2017 Marawi siege served as a wake-up call. A focus group discussion among Maranao women after the siege revealed these sentiments: “We call Marawi an Islamic City, but there are many wrongs; drugs, corruption and extremist views are increasing especially among the young. Many of Allah’s commandments have been disobeyed. It was God’s way of reminding us… to reflect on our lives as Muslims. We now have a chance to win back God’s favor by striving to be on the right path.”
It is thus essential that, in reconstructing Marawi City, a conceptual framework for a model Islamic community should serve as a directional guidepost. The overall principle and foundation of the Islamic faith is Tawheed (monotheism), where attributes of justice, compassion and mercy are cardinal rules. Under Tawheed, all creations are equal before Allah (swt), and this implies the dismantling of inequality, slavery and racism.
The Holy Quran defines three concepts that guide Muslims in establishing a model Islamic Ummah (community). These are Ummah Khayrah (best community), Ummah Wassatan (balanced community) and Ummah Wahidah (one community).
The concept of Ummah Khayrah (best community) establishes Islam as a religion of peace, moderation and impartiality, and not of extremism, prejudice and intolerance. The ultimate goal of Islam is to establish peace and prosperity for humanity. The “straight path” requires believers to undertake what is good as a social responsibility.
The concept of Ummah Khayrah must be understood in the light of other principles that connect to important institutions that will help attain it. These are Khalifa (vicegerent), Iqrah (education), Shurah (consultation), the halal lifestyle, and tahara (cleanliness).
As the vicegerent (Khalifa) of Allah swt, man is entrusted (amanah) to care for his creation, including caring for the environment. The ideal leader is a servant-leader who exercises effective leadership and good governance while avoiding corruption, tyranny, extravagance, and abuse of power and authority.
The Iqrah principle stresses the importance of education and search for knowledge even beyond the confines of religious instruction. Education must be available to all regardless of age and gender.
Under the Shurah principle, decisions are made based on consultation and seeking public opinion. This especially refers to major development plans and projects.
Muslims follow the rule of law on what is allowed and permitted (halal) and what is unlawful and forbidden (haram). Prohibited are gambling, charging interest on loans, engaging in usury, drug abuse, alcoholic drinks, and eating pork. Cleanliness (tahara) is strictly observed, including maintaining a clean and peaceful environment.
The Ummah Wassatan (balanced Ummah) is a community that is middle, fair, just and moderate. The principles to operationalize the concept are: the Shariah legal system, lita’arafuw (pluralism), la ikraha fi d-dini (religious freedom) and jihad (struggle).
The ummah is ruled by a justice system (Shariah) based on primary sources (the Quran) and secondary sources, including customary traditions. The ultimate objective is to preserve and protect life, religion, property, progeny and family. Balance and fairness must be upheld in the community’s affairs. Violence and destructive family feuds (rido) are considered un-Islamic.
The principle of pluralism (lita’arafuw) promotes mutual respect and understanding among peoples of different faiths and cultural traditions. Religious violence is prohibited. Religious freedom (la ikraha fid-dinni) connotes that Muslims are expected to coexist with other peoples, i.e., Christians and other traditions. There is no place for religious persecution in Islam.
Contrary to popular belief, jihad (struggle) is primarily seen as an internal struggle against oneself to achieve perfection of moral character and against sin. Under Islam, peace is the rule and war is the exception. There is intolerance for chaos, destruction and oppression. In the broader sense, peace is about enjoying the blessings of social justice, good governance, economic prosperity and sufficiency, emotional contentment, access to education, democratic freedoms, wholeness and harmony with oneself, between individuals, within a community, and among nations.
Under the concept of Ummah Wahidatan, the equality of all mankind is enshrined where ethnic groups and races are all equal under Allah swt. This transcends nationality, race, ethnicity and color. It also dismantles racism and the caste system.
Finally, gender equality is part of the jurisprudence and fundamental teachings of Islam. Numerous Verses of the Quran and Prophetic Traditions clearly expound that man and woman are created from a single entity and are basically equal. No one gender is superior to another.
With Tawheed as the overall guiding principle and the adoption of the above three levels of a model Islamic Ummah, the rebuilding of Marawi City along the lines of a peaceful and prosperous community can be successfully undertaken, and that can then be a model for other Islamic communities in the Philippines and elsewhere.
Macrina A. Morados is dean and assistant professor at the UP Institute of Islamic Studies, and convenor of the Islamic Studies Program, UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP CIDS).
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