November 6, 2008
Canadian Muslims and Societal Contributions through Community Involvement
How often do we reflect upon the glorious past of our Muslim nation? The amazing contributions of Muslim civilization in Spain, examples of Islamic tolerance during the reign of the famous Salah-el-din and of course the incredible contributions Muslims have made to sciences, mathematics and philosophy? One can explore these contributions thoroughly and never cease to be amazed by the incredible milestones we can reflect upon proudly. Now let us ask ourselves one question: what have we contributed to the Muslim community and society at large which is comparable to our wealthy past?.
Muslims have been in Canada since 1871 . That is only four years after Canada?s founding (post-European contact) and our first mosque was built in 1938! It is impossible to say that Islam is new to Canada nor can we say that it is ?foreign? because Muslims have established themselves in Canada before many other nations themselves! What does that mean to us today?
Let us look around and see what we have actually contributed to this nation- are there any resemblances with the tolerance exhibited by Salah-el-din, or academic contributions as demonstrated during the height of Islamic civilization? What about our presence in community organizations, social development, research, charity? It would be bold to say that we are not present at all, that would ignore those humble few that have made conscious efforts to engage publicly in this society which is just as much their own. However, there is an immense void. It is shameful to say that many of us do not feel that Canada is ready for us or that society is too judgemental for us to integrate properly. Let us ask ourselves this: if Islam has been in Canada since 1871, why are there still misconceptions about this beautiful deen of ours? Who is to blame for the lack of understanding, the intolerance, and the judgement? Has the media been around convicting Muslims since 1871? There is no doubt, we are to blame. There is no excuse for us to simply admire our predecessors in history and hope for a renewal of this spirit some day. The day begins today and with us all.
It is necessary for us to reclaim our faith as Allah asks of us: to be vicegerents on this earth and to accomplish what our duty is on this ephemeral earth. Allah tells us repeatedly in the Qur?an that the true believer, the God-conscious is s/he who constantly establishes prayer and gives from that which Allah has bestowed upon him;
On the night of Miraaj (the Prophet’s ascension to heaven), he passed by some people with metal hooks in their hands who clawed at their faces and their necks with them. When he inquired about them, Jibraeel said, ‘These are the people who eat the flesh of human beings and disgrace them.'” [Abu Dawud].
(2:2) This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah (al muttaqeen);
(2:3) Who believe in the Unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them;
Allah tells us constantly that after we accomplish our prayers we engage in zakah, in charity, in purification of the soul, in giving of what Allah has bestowed upon us. The blessings we receive from Allah are countless, among them: our strengths, our talents, our energy, our intelligence, our Islam. If the message of Islam was shared properly with our neighbors we would not feel misunderstood in this nation which is rightfully ours as well. It is time to give to our communities, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, it is time for Muslims to step up to the plate and engage, be active participants of society, give in charity through our time because one of the most precious things which Allah bestows upon us , and is irretrievable, is time. To give your time to a cause and to the community is worthy of great reward. It is when we give that Allah increases your rewards, just as when you give money for the sake of Allah, you always find it returned to you, time will stretch for us once we engage in blessed actions.
If we do not step up today, when will it happen? 137 years of Muslims in Canada, yet little traces are to be found. Mosques, which are the foundations for our communities have existed for 70 years yet we have yet to expand and create civic institutions and social agencies for our own Muslim communities!
?And keep thy soul content with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His Face; and let not thine eyes pass beyond them, seeking the pomp and glitter of this Life; nor obey any whose heart We have permitted to neglect the remembrance of Us, one who follows his own desires, whose case has gone beyond all bounds.?18:28
With all of the opportunities that we have today in Canada, educational, professional and most importantly the free practice of Islam, there are no excuses for misunderstanding and intolerance towards us, it is our job today to step up as citizens in this nation and spend from what Allah has bestowed upon us. The ball is in our court, now is the time to make a change.
Here are some practical steps we can all take in the development of our community:
1. Support already existing academic, social services, Islamic outreach and community service institutions in your community instead of ?reinventing the wheel?
2. Put your skills and talents to work in an Islamic organization i.e. journalists can help develop media teams at mosques to handle press inquiries and draft press releases
3. Request institutions to offer culture-sensitivity training about Islam in civic institutions ie. dietary concerns in hospitals; prayer accommodation in the workplace
4. Establish support groups for new immigrants i.e. ESL classes, classes on understanding and accessing civic institutions in Canada
5. Establish scholarships to promote enhanced academic performance in the Muslim community ie. scholarships in journalism to students who meet excellent academic standards
6. Increase our awareness and that of the Muslim community of local issues and how they affect the community at large to increase our participation and visibility individually and as a group i.e. learn about your local politician and get involved in issues that affect the community.
7. Participate in inter-generational learning settings to bond the community together i.e. study groups dealing with current day issues from an Islamic perspective geared towards parents and youth together.
Nadine Miville is currently an (MA) Candidate in International Development Studies. She obtained a(BA)International Development Studies and Social Anthropology from Saint Mary’s University
She worked for 2 years in an Islamic school and is devoted to social justice issues relevant to Muslim women in Canada and abroad. Currently living in Ottawa, to get in touch with her please contact [email protected]