When a seed is planted, it takes its nourishment from the earth and its surrounding and slowly grows into a big tree. After it reaches its prime, the tree then starts giving back to its surrounding. First it gives fruits for man, birds and animals to eat and oxygen to breath; then some of its fruits, leaves and parts are returned to the earth through decomposition; and finally it is cut down and used as wood for people’s benefit.
But what about us, the Muslims? When we think about the blessings that we have taken from this society, we see that they are many. But when we count that which we have given back to the society we live in, there is little we have to present. This is in contrast to our forefathers, the Muslims from the beginning of Islamic civilization until some hundred years ago. Those Muslims have enormous contribution to all spheres of life and society starting from politics, economics and social justice to science, technology and medicine.
Allah Azzawajal says in the Holy Quran, what can be translated as,
“You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma`ruf (all that Islam has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (all that Islam has forbidden), and you believe in Allah.”
(Surah Ale Imran, verse 110).
The meaning of the Ayah is that the Ummah of Muhammad is the most righteous and beneficial nation for mankind, because of their bidding the good and forbidding the evil, and because of their good character and morals.
Thus, we as the Ummah of Muhammad Mustafa (saws), have to attain the best morals and characters, be true to our responsibility of the bringing the best benefit for the society; and avoid the mistakes committed by the ummah before us.
Here, in this ayah, the word NAS, or mankind is used; not just Muslims or believers. Therefore the bringing of goodness and social justice have to apply to all of mankind and should never be limited to only the Muslims.
So, how can we be the best of nation that brings goodness to the whole of mankind?
First of all, we need to understand that Islam is a Deen, a complete way of life, rather than just a religion. The word religion has a rather narrow scope limited to a set of beliefs and rituals. Deen, on the other hand, obviously means a system of life where the Almighty Allah is worshipped and obeyed, not just in the narrow religious sense, but in a manner that includes all aspects of human of life including our social life.
In order to follow this Deen of Islam, we need to develop and strengthen our relationship with Allah by reading, comprehending, and pondering over the meaning of Holy Qur’an with a genuine search for truth; and practicing its lessons in our everyday life by living a life of total obedience to the Almighty Allah.
Once we start practicing this, the Ibadah, or obedience to Allah, will begin showing its signs in our character and in our outwardly nature. Our leader, Muhammad (saws) is the perfect and best human being, and the Quran was fully reflected in his character as described by the mother of the believers Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her).
The more we are able to learn and put to practice the lessons of the Quran, the more will the Quran be reflected through our character, biiznillahi Taala.
Secondly: bidding of the good and forbidding the evil is not just a matter of words. It is not something which we say only. Rather it is something which should be reflected in our everyday life. We can see a beautiful example of this from the life of Sayyidul Mursalin Mustafa (saws).
One old woman made used to throw rubbish on Prophet Muhammad whenever he passed in front of her house on the way to the mosque. Even when the old woman threw rubbish on him, he (saws) would pass silently without showing any anger or annoyance. This was a regular, daily event.
One day when the Prophet was passing by, the woman was not there to throw the rubbish. He stopped and asked the neighbor about her well-being. The neighbor informed the Prophet that the woman was sick on bed. The Prophet politely asked permission to visit the woman. When allowed he entered the house, the woman thought that he had come there to take his revenge when she was unable to defend herself because of sickness. But the Prophet assured her that he had come to her, not to take any revenge, but to see her and to look after her needs, as it was the command of Allah that if any one is sick, a Muslim should visit him and should help him if his help is needed.
The old woman was greatly moved by this kindness and love of the Prophet. By the example of greatness of Muhammad, she understood that he was truly the Prophet of God and Islam was the true religion. She accepted Islam at once.
Such kindness is repeated many times in the history of Islam. Justice, honesty, integrity, kindness, sincerity, and truthfulness are the qualities of the Muslims that opened the hearts of millions of people in Asia and Africa to the truth of Islam. People knew the tree of Islam by the fruits of the good conduct it produced in its followers.
Similarly, we also engage regularly with the wider society in todays age too. People know and understand Islam through personal experience of Muslims. The early Muslims spread throughout the world through doing business with the others; and their nobility and integrity of conduct won them over. This very model should be followed by us Muslims today, and we have to interact with larger society in our places of work and other spheres of life; and we need to portray a good example of ourselves and represent Islam as it really is.
Guiding society by spreading the call of righteousness, fighting atrocities and detestful things, encouraging virtue, enjoining all that is good, helping the people, trying to win the public opinion to the side of Islam, and observing the Islamic principles in all aspects of public life: these are the duty of individual Muslims as well as the community working as a unit. The society we live in has many problems to which we Muslims can contribute and work together with others to solve.
Thirdly: Our life, individually and within the Muslim community, should be an ideal one which may draw the attention of others. It should make people think and compare their own lives with ours. That is one of the ways that will make them curious for gaining sound information about Islam. However, if we slavishly imitate the parts of the Western lifestyle that do not agree with Islam, and thus degrade ourselves, there will not be and cannot be any distinction between us and others. In this case, they will not feel any attraction towards us or our Deen. Nor will it make them reflect on the Muslim behavior or hold us and Islam in esteem.
We must also remember and understand that if we commit a crime in our home country, we are less likely to be stereotyped, compared to doing the same in this society. This is because we are not just an individual here, rather we are representatives of our countries and of our Deen Islam. So, it is much much more important to set a good example and be a good role model in this society.
This also applies to the community within ourselves. We need to be united, have strong brotherhood and set good example as a group. One of the greatest blessings of Islam is it's admirable success in creating strong, warm and rich bond of love and brotherhood among the Muslims. It is this blessing of love and brotherhood which is the greatest source of sustenance and nourishment for man, but few of us can honestly say that we have experienced true brotherhood. True Muslim brotherhood implies that we should pray for our brother and want for him what we want for ourselves.
The importance of brotherhood is highlighted by the saying of the Prophet (saws). He has described it by saying:
"You find the Muslims in their mutual love and compassion, like one body, should any organ of it fall ill, the rest of the body will share in the fever and sleeplessness that ensues". (al-Bukhari)
Let us all pray and work towards being the best of Mankind, being a member of the Ummah of Sayyidul Mursaleen Muhammad (saws).