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Various circumstances drive people, including Muslims, to leave their homelands and migrate to other countries. People often undertake these life changes, because they want to improve their standard of living or seek knowledge or because they are in search of security and stability. Almighty God says, “It is He who has made the earth a floor for you. You walk through its vast valleys and eat of its sustenance.”1 Walking through the earth, which in this verse refers to relocation and immigration, is undoubtedly one of the reasons for seeking one’s livelihood. The objective of immigration includes not only seeking basic living necessities, but also the acquisition of knowledge, adequate healthcare, and safety from peril. Moreover, by virtue of increasing migration, our [immigrant] communities have become an integral part of society and contain citizens who seek to continue to contribute in a meaningful way.
Ahl al-Bayt and Community Outreach
Immigrating to different parts of the world involves mixing with people who are diverse in their races, cultures, beliefs, religions, and orientations. One of the holy verses in the Quran addresses the need to become acquainted with others because of social diversity, God says, “People, We have created you all male and female and have made you nations and tribes so that you would recognize each other.”2 Moreover, one of the Commander of the Faithful’s reported short maxims is, “People are hostile towards what they do not know.”3 In that sense, a person who isolates themselves and does not interact with others will remain unknown to them, thus emphasizing the need for positive social interaction. Being socially secluded can cause others to be fearful and to take unnecessary caution that manifests as hostility, and this can be the source of many crises. Hence, we notice that the holy verse concludes, “The most honorable among you in the sight of God is the most pious of you.”4 because the criterion of preference among humans is piety and good deeds, and not ethnicity, color, language, or any other physical characteristic.
The Prophet and his purified progeny (pbut) presented the best examples of openness towards others, irrespective of their standpoints, orientations, and beliefs. They did not isolate themselves or limit their interaction to only their followers. Rather, they interacted with the Abyssinian, Roman, Arab, non-Arab, poor, and rich without exception. That is why you find that the Ahl al-Bayt (pbut) are significant and endeared to many people worldwide, despite all the slander cast upon them. Our responsibility, in aligning our actions with the purified household, should also be to seek to be actively engaged with those in our communities, so we get to know them, and they get to know us.
Today, most of those who hold animosity toward Muslims are those who have never spent any meaningful time with a Muslim. Through shared values and commonalties, there is an opportunity to create friendship and meaningful relationships. Thus, the responsibility falls on all parties—we also should engage in outreach and contribute positively to our societies instead of forming silos in our individual communities.
Deal with Others Ethically
It is evident to those who are acquainted with Western societies that there is significant ethnic, national, and linguistic diversity among their citizens, particularly since most of them are originally immigrants. Therefore, the presence, shape, color, and language of the immigrant, including the Muslim settler, in these countries do not constitute any barrier to social harmony for the most part. In actuality, the most important and predominant problem relates to the way of interaction and coexistence. There is no doubt that the essence of religion is good treatment, performing good deeds, and observing righteous behavior, to the extent that people often say, “religion is good treatment.” Furthermore, Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) is reported to have said, “Be an ornament for us and do not be a disgrace.”5 and “Invite people towards our path silently [through your actions].”6 This means that the invitation [to the way of God the Exalted] can be extended through good behavior and morals and not necessarily through talk. This is the only domain in which to practically implement Islam, as its effect can be more than that of a thousand books written by astute scholars and supreme religious authorities.
The public observes, comprehends, and creates an image of the daily behavior of a Muslim, and concludes that this positive behavior emanates from the belief the Muslim holds or the culture that he adopts. Imam al-Baqir (p) is reported to have said, “Take lead in performing good deeds, be leaves without thorns, for those before you were leaves without thorns, and I fear that you become thorns with no leaves, be inviters to your Lord and bring people into Islam and do not take them out of it, as those before you brought people into Islam and did not take them out of it.”7 In another narration, Imam al-Sadiq (p) was asked by one of his companions, Muawiya ibn Wahab, “How should we deal with our people who do not share the same belief as we do?” Imam al-Sadiq (p) replied, “You should look up to your Imams whom you follow and do as they do, by God, visit the sick ones, attend their funeral processions, bear witness for or against them, and pay back their entrustments.”8
It should be clear that Islam teaches us that in addition to abiding by the laws of our homeland we need to be engaged in our community. This entails reaching out with our hands and hearts to all citizens to solve our common problems and make society better for everyone, irrespective of race, ethnicity, language, or religion. This responsibility falls on all of us and demands that we leave behind a legacy of spreading wellbeing. There is a social component to Islamic tradition that advises the believer to engage with others in a positive way and play an integral role in our communities. Believers should leave behind a legacy that makes an impact in the hearts and souls of those around them. In the words of Imam Ali (p), “Live amongst people in such a way, that if you die, they weep over you, and when you’re alive, they crave your company.”9
1. The Holy Quran 67:15. All Quranic quotes in this article are from Muhammad Sarwar’s translation.
2. The Holy Quran 49:13.
3. Sayyid al-Sharif al-Radi, Nahj al-Balagha, wisdom 162. [Arabic: “النَّاسُ أَعْدَاءُ مَا جَهِلُوا”]
4. The Holy Quran 49:13.
5. Shaykh al-Saduq, Al-amali, p. 484.
6. Shaykh Mirza al-Nuri, Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 1, p. 116.
7. Shaykh Mirza al-Nuri, Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 12, p. 241.
8. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 2, p. 636.
9. Nahj al-balagha, saying 7.
1. قال الله تعالى: ((هُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْأَرْضَ ذَلُولًا فَامْشُوا فِي مَنَاكِبِهَا وَكُلُوا مِن رِّزْقِهِ ۖ وَإِلَيْهِ النُّشُورُ))
2. قال الله تعالى: ((يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّـهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ))
3. جاء عن الإمام علي (ع): “النَّاسُ أَعْدَاءُ مَا جَهِلُوا”
4. قال الله تعالى: ((إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّـهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ))
5. روي عن الإمام الصادق (ع): “كونوا لنا زينا، ولا تكونوا علينا شينا، قولوا للناس حسنا”
6. روي عن الإمام الصادق (ع): “وان تكونوا لنا دعاة صامتين فقالوا يا بن رسول الله وكيف ندعو إليكم ونحن صموت؟ قال تعملون بما أمرناكم به من العمل بطاعة الله وتتناهون عن معاصي”
7. روي عن الإمام الباقر (ع): ” كونوا من السابقين بالخيرات، وكونوا ورقا لا شوك فيه، فان من كان قبلكم كانوا ورقا لا شوك فيه، وقد خفت ان تكونوا شوكا لا ورق فيه، وكونوا دعاة إلى ربكم، وادخلوا الناس في الاسلام ولا تخرجوهم منه، وكذلك من كان قبلكم يدخلون الناس في الاسلام ولا يخرجونهم منه ”
8. روي عن معاوية بن وهب قال: قلت له ]الإمام الصادق عليه السلام[: كيف ينبغي لنا أن نصنع فيما بيننا وبين قومنا وبين خلطائنا من الناس ممن ليسوا على أمرنا؟ قال: تنظرون إلى أئمتكم الذين تقتدون بهم فتصنعون ما يصنعون فوالله إنهم ليعودون مرضاهم ويشهدون جنائزهم ويقيمون الشهادة لهم وعليهم ويؤدون الأمانة إليهم.”
9. روي عن الإمام علي (ع): “خَالِطُوا النَّاسَ مُخَالَطَةً إِنْ مِتُّمْ مَعَهَا بَكَوْا عَلَيْكُمْ، وَإِنْ عِشْتُمْ حَنُّوا إِلَيْكُمْ.”