By Fatima Kermali
“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided.” 3:103
The Creator commanded in Chapter 3, verse 103, to grasp a firm faith in God altogether and not be separated Hence, when unity is formed, it is indestructible. Its exemplar is like a bundle of sticks when placed in one’s hand, it is impossible to break into pieces. Such is the ummah (community) if united nothing can divide it. Therefore, there is power and strength in numbers when banded together.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) stated, “Believers are brethren, their lives are equal to each other and they are as one hand against their enemy”
The Prophet (pbuh) not only preached this unity, but as a leader, he instituted it as well. When he migrated from his hometown of Mecca to Medina, one of the first things he did was establish brotherhood amongst the Muslims. The Holy Prophet of God created unity by creating brotherly bonds between the migrants and the residents of the city. The migrants known as the Muhajireen and the residents called the Ansar (Helpers) were each paired with one another as brothers who would support and care for each other like true brothers. These bonds allowed the Muslims to gain strength and grow as an ummah and defeat their enemies as the Prophet mentioned. These words of the Prophet (pbuh) were not only true then but still hold validity today.
Presently, there are about 1.9 billion Muslims in the world. What is more, the Islamic population is mainly distinguished into two groups: the Ahlul Sunnah wa Jammah (Sunni) Muslims and the Shia Muslims. What unifies the two are the basic beliefs in the Oneness of God, Prophethood, and the Day of Judgment.
However, a slight difference of opinion exists about the exact day of the Prophet’s (pbuh) birthday. The Sunnis believe that it is the 12th of Rabi‘ al-Awwal while the Shias say it is the 17th. To accommodate both dates, the Islamic Republic of Iran proposed a week of Muslim Unity. It is called Hafta-e Wahdat (Week of Unity) so that Muslims from both schools of thought can come together to honor the Last Messenger of God (pbuh).
Prophet Muhammad spent a good portion of his life challenging the then norms of society that were set up to create divisions and classes. He spent his life equalizing members of society from the angles of gender, race, and economic standings. His ultimate aim was to create a unified banner in which everyone could stand together, solely as a follower of the One Creator irrespective of any differences. His ambition was to create a community of brotherly love and peace. The message was Islam, which means “peace”. This mission is still continuing as the annual Unity Week is held by conducting conferences in Tehran. Scholars from all over the world and from all schools of thought in Islam are invited to not only share ideas but also develop mutual understanding and respect. Allah (swt) reminds us in the noble Qur’an: “Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle; and those who are [truly] with him are firm and unyielding toward all deniers of the truth, [yet] full of mercy toward one another” (48:29).
This message has allowed Muslims to honor the Holy Prophet (pbuh) by holding conferences and events all over the world that bring people of all faiths and ideologies together to discuss and learn from each and walk away with a better understanding of one another. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a universal figure sent for the Universe. His values are universal. His teachings are universal. Those who learn from his example will only benefit themself and positively affect society.
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said: ‘Shall I tell you which of you from amongst you is most like me?’ They said: ‘Yes, O Apostle of God.’ He said: ‘The best of you in morals, and the most pliant of you, and the one who honors his relatives the most, and the one who has the strongest love for his brothers in faith, and the one who is most patient in the way of the truth, and he who is most in control of his anger, and is most forgiving, and he who is most just to himself in contentment and in anger.”