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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Coalition Building – The Strength of Democracy

Dr. Maher Hathout, Spokesperson, Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC)
November 2008, ICSC Newsletter

The election of Senator Obama is an event that has captured the attention and fascination of the world. So many issues about Obama – his family, his ideas, and the way he ran his campaign – all became and will remain subject to commentary and evaluation.

One very laudable and pertinent aspect is Obama’s brilliant ability to coalesce different groups with different ideologies from all walks of American life and bind them together with a desire for a better America that lives up to its ideals. The creation of a common ground upon which every one of these groups can find a space is the glory of a free people, who possess in themselves the potential for change.

This idea of building coalitions is the strength of a democracy. We Muslims need to ponder this reality and appreciate it. One of the early recorded activities of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), long before he received the Message, was his participation in the coalition of “al-Fudool,” which brought together several different leaders of Meccan society to agree to protect visitors and passersby who had no tribal support system from being exploited or abused. In fact, to emphasize the importance of coalition building, the Prophet stated, after he had become established as the Messenger of God, that if he were to be invited again for such a coalition, he would join.

The Quran states that the interaction between groups and masses is the guarantee against corruption and the protector of the most important of all freedoms – the freedom of religious diversity. This is illustrated in two glorious verses of the Quran (all verses from The Message of the Quran by Mohammad Asad):

Surah 2: 251 – “…and if God has not enabled people to [push in groups] against each other, corruption would surely overwhelm the earth…”

Surah 22: 40 – “…for, if God had not enabled people to [push in groups] against each, [all monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques] in all of which God’s name is abundantly extolled, would surely have been destroyed…”

Furthermore, the Quran teaches us to depart from the illusion of conformity, to acknowledge that diverse groups should vie and race for goodness at all levels, and leave the final judgment to God.

Surah 5: 48 – “…unto every one of your have We appointed a different law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He surely would have made you all one single community: [but He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto you. Vie then with one another in doing good works…”

The Quran has also directed us to cooperate with others for whatever is good and righteous.

Surah 5: 2 – “…cooperate with one another in furthering virtue and God consciousness…”

We should cherish this moment in history when we see common people cooperating and creating alliances to shape their own destiny.

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