Collectivism in Islamic Society

by Kate Bradley
Islam values all people, cultures and faiths as part of God's divine plan for humanity.

Islam values all people, cultures and faiths as part of God's divine plan for humanity.

Despite Islam's heavy emphasis on individual free will and accountability, collectivism plays a central role in Muslim society. Since the formation of the first ummah (Muslim community) in the seventh century, followers of Islam have lived according to Quranic principles that stress the importance of working for the collective good, taking care of others and maintaining unity in the face of opposition or threat. The Quran also urges Muslims to see one another as well as non-Muslims as members of one human family striving toward common goals.

Family

The strongest evidence of Islamic collectivism can be found in Muslim families. Within the ummah, the family is the fundamental building block and social hub. Ties of kinship are all-important; three generations often share a home and children tend to remain in that home until they marry. It is common for relatives to play a role in finding a spouse for young adults, and when they marry, the marriage is viewed as a union (and therefore the strengthening) of two families. Despite the negative image presented in the media of the Muslim family as extremist, honor-obsessed and controlling of their daughters, none of those attributes are have any Quranic foundation. The family was and is purported to be a safe haven for all its members, a place of belonging and a source of love and emotional support.

Social Life

Fundamental collectivist Islamic principles such as brotherhood, equality and compassion form the backbone of the Muslim social order. Everyone must do his or her part, however. Continuity in Muslim society depends upon the willing participation of most members to adhere to the standards individual responsibility outlined in the Quran. When single adult women avoid socializing with non-family males and families take in downtrodden distant relatives, for example, Islam is kept at the center of everyday life and the social order is maintained. The ummah cannot exist without each member actively incorporating Quranic teachings into his life.

Religious Life

Muslim men and women are considered brothers and sisters in religion. Even if two Muslims have never met, they are already connected by their love for Allah. All Muslims, according to the Quran, should be engaged daily in "jihad," which is not a holy war, as is commonly believed, but a striving to please Allah. If one Muslim sees another doing wrong out of ignorance, he is obliged to correct him out of a desire to strengthen the ummah. Additionally, daily salat (prayer) should be performed in a group whenever possible to enjoy the benefits of fellowship with other Muslims. Muslims are required to perform Friday salat at mosque, as Friday is the holy day and should be spent with other followers of the faith.

Service to Others

The Quran instructs Muslims to serve one another and to give generously to those in need. For example, zakat, the third pillar of Islam, is a compulsory charitable gift of two and a half percent of one's total wealth to the needy. The Quran says, "By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give [freely] of that which ye love; and whatever ye give, of a truth God knoweth it well" (9:32). Cheating on zakat is considered a grave offense. In addition, Muslims are required to honor, respect and obey their parents and are prohibited from mistreating neighbors, widows and orphans. Voluntary acts of charity are very strongly encouraged; in fact, if a Muslim has the power to help someone, he will be answerable to Allah if he chooses not to do so.

About the Author

Kate Bradley began writing professionally in 2007. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies and a minor in German from Berry College in Rome, Ga; TEFL/TESOL certification from ITC International in Prague; and a Master of Arts in integrated global communication from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga.

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