Support: Spiritual & Moral
Being a committed part of a Muslim community fosters an atmosphere of support for one another through many means; social, financial, moral, and intra-personal. The strongest method of support is to enjoin upon each other truth, and patience:
Verily Man is in loss, except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy. (Al-`Asr 103:2-3)
In today’s world, it is difficult to know who you can trust, and who you cannot, who is sincere and who isn’t. When people are engaged in a masjid, participating in the salah, in reminding, in fellowship, and doing good acts, they naturally begin to support each other morally over time.
Within the jama`ah (congregation) there is a certain degree of shared accountability that is not present outside of it. When brothers and sisters in Islam hold each other accountable, transgression is lessened. Spousal abuse is widespread in our communities, but when sisters are a part of a congregation, there is more recourse and direct help from within the community.
When Muslim children see that their parents are true to their religious and communal obligations, and have spiritual focus and goals in life, it is easier for them to do the same as adults because such experiences, and rearing serves as their foundation in life.
When our children see that their parents have no real commitment to our faith, to our institutions, to our communities, or to each other, it sends them a message that there is no real future for them as Muslims, and that it’s not worth the effort. We are seeing this occur time and time again.
Having communities with imams is part of the tradition of Islam that has helped preserve our religion in America, dating back to the late 1800’s Being under some sort of religious leadership, whether it be an imam, an amir (ruler), a khalifah, or a sultan, is the Sunnah of our Prophet; The Prophet said:
“Whoever notices something which he dislikes done by his ruler, then he should be patient, for whoever becomes separate from the company of the Muslims even for a span and then dies, he will die as those who died in the Pre-Islamic period of Ignorance (as rebellious sinners).” (Al-Bukhari)
The ideal communities are those who have leaders who are fair, just, and knowledgeable of the religion so that can correctly teach people what is right and guide them according to the Qur’an and Sunnah. However, any leader is better than no leader at all.
When Muslim people do not have religious leaders, there is chaos. Brothers who have imams and are under some direct Islamic leadership tend to be more focused upon their religious priorities than those who aren’t. Imams are of varying qualities; some more knowledgeable, and more pious than others.
Still this should not prevent someone from the benefit of praying behind an imam in the congregational prayer. The Prophet said: “If the imam leads the prayer correctly then he and you will receive the rewards but if he makes a mistake (in the prayer) then you will receive the reward for the prayer and the sin will be his.” (Al-Bukhari)
We are living in the last days, and many of the major signs of the hour have passed. In the hadith of Hudhaifah, he was asking the Prophet about the trials of latter-day times; “What do you order me to do if such a state should take place in my life?” He said, “Stick to the group of Muslims and their imam (ruler).” I said, “If there is neither a group of Muslims nor an Imam (ruler)?” He said, “Then turn away from all those sects even if you were to bite (eat) the roots of a tree till death overtakes you while you are in that state.” (Al-Bukhari)
Ibn Taymiyah said, “It is better to endure under a tyrannical leader for 100 years than to go one night without one.”
Granted, we are all American Muslims, and brothers and sisters in Islam. However, if we take a closer look, it is evident that there are clearly two, distinctly different, Muslim Americas. One comprised primarily by immigrants from Muslim countries, and their children, and the other from American Muslim converts.
As immigrant communities are growing, thriving, and blanketing the landscape with multi-million dollar masajid, schools, and cultural institutions. African-American Muslim communities are struggling, lack physical resources, lack influence, and are very small in comparison.
The future looks very bleak for the Muslim converts unless we re-establish congregation with just and knowledgeable imams. Religious congregations are not perfect, but it is a lot better than chaos. For many Muslim converts, there is hardly any religious order in their lives. Imperfect institutions that teach, regulate, and fulfill the order of the deen of Islam, are better than no institutions at all.