So its 2002, 35 degrees Celsius, and I am on my first serious trip away from home. It’s been quite a flight from Manchester to Doha and finally to my destination, Male; jet lag aside, I am caught between a feeling of excitement and nervousness. About 17hrs before I was kissing my mum goodbye, and now I had arrived on this tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the capital of the Islamic Republic of the Maldives, to hear the sound of the Adhaan for Fajr.
So I get through immigration, pick up my luggage, and head for the exit. As I approach the exit, I can see the masjid, so I go and offer my prayers and then make my way to the hustle and bustle of the water taxis and speedboats waiting to take people to the various Islands.
I get on a taxi, and take the short ride to the Island and head straight to the office. When I arrive my notions of working in a Muslim land are shattered, with it being a very casual and mixed environment, not a brother with a beard or sister in hijab in sight. I am allocated my desk, and informed I can leave my luggage there as they had not had a chance to find me a hotel yet.
I went to grab some breakfast and found my hotel. I then went to the office, got my bags, returned and checked in to the hotel with lots of reading from the charity I was working at.
As I sat there, having escaped lots of attempts to be hustled into random tourist scams, I looked out into the vast ocean from my sea view room, I began to think. I thought what am I, Azim Kidwai, 22 year old male, with no experience of working with children with disabilities doing here, across the world trying to help these people?
By this time, the adhaan for Maghrib went, and as I almost teary eyed made my way to the masjid, I had this dull heavy feeling in my heart, ‘homesickness’. The iqaama went, and I hurried into the masjid, as I approached the door, I was given way by a brother, and then we joined the salah.
I prayed, and then after the Sunnah, as I made tasleem, Abdul Latif (the brother who gave me way at the door) appeared in front of me and said, ‘Asalamalykum Warhamatullahi Wabarakataahu’. And as I looked at him, hearing those sweet familiar words coupled with a radiant smile, I felt an amazing ease come over me, and I replied accordingly.
What followed was a conversation about who I was, what was I doing on this Island, and what I need. Soon enough, Abdul Latif and I were on our way for food and to meet the brothers. Behold, homesickness, cured.
I spent the next three months living like I was at home. Having the pleasure of people opening their lives, homes and generosity to me, and never once after those first hours even thinking about home. How? Why? Well, I found the reality of why the Messenger (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “There are seven whom Allaah will shade in His Shade on the Day when there is no shade except His Shade: a just ruler; a youth who grew up in the worship of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic; a man whose heart is attached to the mosques; two men who love each other for Allah’s sake, meeting for that and parting upon that; a man who is called by a woman of beauty and position [for illegal intercourse], but be says: ‘I fear Allaah’, a man who gives in charity and hides it, such that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives in charity; and a man who remembered Allah in private and so his eyes shed tears.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
To love for the sake of Allah joins hearts in a way that has no parallel. It is what allows a Brit of Indian decent to feel at home with random people who have no genealogical, linguistic or ethnic connection to him. It is what often makes reverts feel closer to their brothers or sisters in Islam than to their own blood. It is what allows complete strangers to be the best of friends with the utterance of just a few words; ‘Asalamalaykum Warahamatullahi Wabarakartahu’. It is the shahadah that unites us.
Brothers and sisters, bonding between the Ummah is not going to emerge at some special date -we will not awake to find, wow, we are all bonded, and unity has arrived. Rather unity, which is of immense importance to this nation and its strength, starts with us. We must revise the way in which we look at the world and other Muslims, and we must humble ourselves to the enormity of the brotherhood that Allah, The Majestic, created for those that testify to His Oneness and Final Prophethood of Muhammad (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
“The believers are but a single brotherhood: So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear Allah, that ye may receive Mercy.” (Hujarat, 10)
Unquestionably, true and sincere bonds will emerge in this nation when we humble ourselves to the greater brotherhood we have been raised in. The starting point is to love for the sake of Allah and hate for His sake Alone. So if you want to build bonds in your community, you want to build unity in the Ummah, start with yourself and revise your relationships. Love and forgive for the sake of Allah, and start with the advices of Rasul Allah (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) who said, “You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I guide to that which would make you love one another? Spread greetings (Salaam) abundantly amongst yourselves” [Muslim]
“None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]
With that fellow productive Muslims, I love you for the sake of Allah, Subhanahu wa Ta’ala. Now lets, get this Ummah going…
About the Author:
Azim Kidwai is the General Manager of Mercy Mission UK