2015 November, Community Building, Emdad Khan

We will define community building and also investigate how prophet Muhammad (SAW) built the Muslim community in Medina after his migration. Also we will highlight how SNMC community was developed in Ottawa over the last 16 years starting in 1999.
Community building is a field of practices directed toward the creation or enhancement of a community among individuals within a regional area (such as a neighborhood) or with a common interest. A wide variety of practices can be utilized for community building, ranging from simple events like potlucks and small book clubs, to larger–scale efforts such as mass festivals, and building construction projects that involve local participants rather than outside contractors [1].Image result for images of community building

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We migrated to Canada for better economic life for our families.  Let us think how we can build an integrated Muslim community keeping the Muslim identity and also become contributing Canadian citizens.
Let us look at the motivations of early Muslims who also migrated from Makkah to Medina with prophet (SAW) in 622 AD. They left their home and their properties for three reasons:

  • Preserve the faith in God, the Al-mighty
  • Support Prophet (SAW) in his mission
  • Seek the pleasure of God

When our Prophet (SAW) arrived in Madinah (Yathrib) – people were divided into three components:

  1. Helpers (Answers) – two Arab tribes Aws and Khajraz,
  2. Three Jewish tribes living in Medina (Yathrib)-  Banu Qainuka’a, Banu Nadhir and Banu Qurayza,
  3.  migrants (Muhajirs)  [2]

The Prophet (SAW) built a strong community out of these three diverse and conflicting components.

  • The Prophet started building the community by first building the Masjid Al-Nababee – to bring the community together. The masjid was the Centre for salah, learning, and community activities.
  • The Prophet (SAW) took steps to develop the brotherhood between the migrant (muhajirs) and local helpers (Al-Ansars). The migrants were in desperate need of material help and locals needed farming and business know how and a new identity instead of their tribal frictions.
  • The prophet (SAW) made a treaty with the three Jewish tribes of Medina. In the treaty, the Prophet (SAW) guaranteed freedom of worship, allowing them a school and synagogue in Medina.  He became the spiritual leader of Muslims (muhajirs and ansars) but the civic leader of all people of Medina, Muslims, Jews and other tribes.
  • The migration of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, from Makkah to Medina (then Yathrib), brought him into contact with the Jews for the first time. At the beginning they were friendly to him. He granted them the famous Charter of Medina, and they acknowledged him the ruler of their city, and agreed to abide by his decisions in all disputes. They also agreed to defend the city in the event of an invasion by an enemy. [2]
  • The Prophet (SAW) developed a strong community with  healthy and normal relations among  the Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors, even  having different cultures and faiths.
  • Bilal, a slave from Ethiopia, was honored Muazzin, Salman, a prince from Iran and Shoib from Italy, Abu Huraira,  a destitute were all  important members of his inner circle and equally respected and honored
  • The prophet also established the masjid as a learning center of the Quran and Islam for adults and kids.
  • Also prophet (saw) gave women their due rights. He himself was all the way guided by his beloved wife, mother of the believers Khadija (Ra).

In the light of above discussion, it is clear that the prophet gave us a model how to build a Muslim community when we are migrant in a new country- a) build a masjid as the hub for the community to perform Salah,  as well as learning center  and perform community activities. Like prophet masjid it should be for all segment of the community brothers, sisters, kids, and seniors.

In 1999, when started SNMC musallah by renting a city community center and used to offer two Salahs, and provided Quran and Islamic studies for Kids as well as tutoring in Mathematics, Physics, chemistry, etc. We gradually started offering 5 salah and Jumah prayer and also organized Friday lectures encompassing spiritual, social, family and day to day life issues. We created a welcoming environment for Muslims from any fiqh or ethnic or geographical background.
We also put a vision to build SNMC masjid and community center using the model of Prophet (SAW) where it will be place for kids, youths, brothers, sisters and seniors. It will be a multi ethnic and multi fiqh community organization [3].

Our motto, SNMC belongs to you, me and us as well as progress and success through community services.  We adopted open communication.  When any new musallee comes to snmc, the imam, and management talk with the person, enquires about him.

With obtaining CRA charity status in 2007, we started working to build the mortar and brick masjid and community Centre until it was completed in December 2014. Now focus is to to strengthen  Muslim community boding by providing family counseling, marriage and match making, programs for kids, youths, brothers, sisters and seniors .

We also make sure a person from any ethnicity or any fiqh feel welcomed.  In SNMC management also, we have brothers and sisters from different fiqh and ethnic background. We also worked out to balance even in prayer timing blending multi fiqh and even in all activities we put a team of multi ethnic back ground.

We realized simply offering prayer services, it will be difficult to attract families to come to masjid.  We started to provide spiritual services as well as education, sports and social services to attract the families. As immigrants, we have job issues and job search, resume writing, networking, families adapting to Canadian societies keeping Muslim identity. Established tutoring support for our kids in mathematics, sciences, English and French.

The aim was to attract the whole family, brothers, sisters, kids as a family unit to SNMC masjid and community center by proving services. We also realized SNMC is too small to work alone on providing family service, so we looked for joint partnership with other Muslim community organizations, formed, United Muslims Organizations Ottawa Gatineau (UMO-OG).

We the management thought as Muslims what we can achieve and give back to the mainstream Canadian Society, the family values, and moral and ethics. We started networking with mainstream community organizations, city, provincial and federal elected representatives. Also built interfaith dialogue with local churches, temples and synagogues.

One of the challenges we have today as migrants to transfer Islam to our children- as Muslim minority. Even, Prophet Yacoub (AHS), at the time of his death, gathered his children and asked them “What will you worship after my death?” as that was his main concern.  To transfer Islam to our kids, SNMC runs Saturday school in Quran and Islamic Studies as well as the native languages of Bangla, Urdu, Arabic and Somali.  We also have additional Quran learning and memorization for the kids on Fridays.  A large number of parents are balancing by letting the kids to go to morning secular school as well as Saturday Islamic school and Friday Quran memorization school.

Also in SNMC sisters took a lot of initiatives. We have sisters’ regular Halaqa, and social evenings, food festivals, and fund raising activities. Also Asma Khan, my wife, was all along with us in community potluck, food festival, fund raising,  and project activities  which helped us in realizing the project  during 16 long years.

We in SNMC strongly believe there is no going back home, Ottawa-Gatineau is our new Medina and we have to continue to work together to become contributing law abiding Canadian Muslims keeping our Islamic identity.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_building
[2] http://www.al-islam.org/restatement-history-islam-and-muslims-sayyid-ali-ashgar-razwy/muslims-and-jews
[3] SNMC: Dream, Vision, Development and Reality, Emdad Khan, to be published

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