COMMENT We know that Allah the Most Exalted wants us to return to Him as human beings, not as human in form yet showing many animal qualities. The one letter “e” makes the difference. The first sign of a humane Muslim is that he treats other Muslims as if they were true human beings, not as victims of poverty, war crimes, rich inheritances, elderly or senile, or anything else.
We treat them as human beings precisely equal to ourselves. How many social workers can treat his or her clients in such a fashion? How many teachers can treat their students in such a fashion? How many parents can treat their children in such a fashion? Or their grandparents?
We can think of compassion, compassion for all beings. If we attend Hajj rites and fail to accept all those millions of illiterate as well as professional Muslims as our equals before Allah swt, we have missed the point. We might as well not go.
We are looking for what the Quran calls “small kindnesses”. They can mean so much. When someone wants to trample us to get to the Black Stone, make way. Do not resist. When someone wants to get ahead of us in the queue at the airport, make way. Do not resist. Our hearts must be big enough and wide enough to accept all Muslim brothers and sisters into itself, into its loving-kindness, no matter what.
This quality of “humane” Muslims is one of the possible bases for a civil society which we Muslims have lost. The medieval community highlighted the virtue of conviviality.
After all, a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him) (the authenticity of which is said to be beyond dispute) goes: “Wisdom is the lost property of the believer. Take it wherever you happen to find it”.
Conviviality takes precedence over all things, especially financial greed. Conviviality requires that human interaction, civil interaction, be pleasant before anything else. If it can’t be pleasant, it isn’t worth doing. Herein lies the overwhelming importance of politeness, in which the various human passions are held in check for the pleasantness of some interaction or other.
Sunnah of cyberspace
Muslims take note. There is a Sunnah of cyberspace that is largely ignored these days, in which not one single communication is personally sent your way without your response.
I remember a dear friend who never wrote a letter without carefully covering each and every point raised by me in my previous letter. And this thoroughness of inter-communication was contagious; it was always reciprocated on my part. Thus she taught me the conviviality of correspondence. My emails would be so much happier were she still alive today.
Perhaps it takes a certain minimum wealth to act out one’s convivial feelings on the human stage. Malays have done more for Palestinians than any other Muslim group, and have received very little appreciation for it. Perhaps the Saudis and others have been shamed that they have not done as much, other than talk and fight over petty issues.
Well, the Saudis and other Arabs have certainly had the wealth. What they have not had was any genuine conviviality with the Palestinians to really help out in a substantial way.
The Indonesians are in a similar plight. There is no zakat dollar that goes further than in Indonesia, and yet very little organisation has been done in helping our quarter-of-a-million Muslim brothers and sisters down there, And those efforts that have borne fruit (such as YJIMS foundation in building madrasah in Banten Province) have met with a resounding silence when approaching various of the richer Muslims among us.
The Malaysians had a yayasan which promptly sent all their money to recipients of zakat funds to a certain rich country, who had expressed no interest in Islam or any intention to become Muslim. Most, in fact, were atheist. There are limits to our conviviality, and atheism (or “free thinking”) is surely one of them.
Everybody knows the camarederie of a “mamak” food stall. If “1Malaysia” has any meaning at all it must lie in sitting down to a cup of tea and having some discussion over the issues of the day with our Indian and Chinese neighbours in the hundreds of food stalls lying peacefully all over Kuala Lumpur.
We will not disrupt the weddings of such people, nor will we remain deaf to their occasional needs for funding. Nor will we hesitate to ask for a little credit when we are short of funds ourselves!
“Humane” is an attitude that starts with us individually, our families and neighbourhoods, and then spreads quietly throughout the society. Such is a civil society. Such we have here in Malaysia, and such our Arab brothers and sisters long for in the Middle East.
Let us pray for their attainment of such a civil society, while praising Allah the Most Exalted for such potential civility that we have right here in Malaysia, and especially during these trying times.
Why have we been surviving for more than fifty years? Because, in the end, the civility wins out. And that is as it should be among Muslims and non-Muslims in the modern world. Without guns. Insha Allah.