Families are the building blocks of society. Solid blocks result in a better society. Families are happier and function properly when each member contributes to the betterment of the family. Clearly defined roles related to rights and responsibilities are crucial to the building of a happy family. I pray to Almighty Allah (subhanahu wata ‘ala) to help me shed light on how we can make our families happier entities. It takes commitment, effort, perseverance, communication and cooperation to achieve this goal. In this first article I would like to discuss our big family, the Muslim community in Chicago.

Our big family consists of immigrants, their descendants, African-American, as well as converts. Our family is similar in many respects to the composition of the Medinah community during the early days of Islam. We all came from towns that were made-up of different families or tribes. They worked together for the common good. Our big family is multi-cultural (Arabs, Africans, Pakistanis, Indians, Turks, Converts… etc.). They all have similarities as well as differences. When functioning within the confines of Islam, they work together for the common good. Our beloved Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wasallam) said “None of you truly believes until he wants for his brother what he wants for himself.”

We need to plan to combat the social, economic, religious and rapid growth challenges facing our community. Accomplishing this task requires the participation of every member. It is easy to complain and criticize, (and sometimes it is warranted), but it is harder to get involved and volunteer time and effort. We have plenty of talent in our community, and that talent must be nurtured and utilized. We need to define and prioritize the issues and allocate the necessary resources to proactively tackle them.

Many say these problems are too big to handle. I ask – have we really tried? Have we allocated the necessary resources that would allow us to invest in the future of our families? We need to work together, employing our intellectual and financial resources, like the Medinah community did. The early Muslims in America established the foundation, built Mosques, formed organizations and started schools. These must continue to strive to help our community prosper and excel. The Mosques should take the lead, seeking out and nurturing available talent and provide a welcoming environment that encourages participation. Outreach programs are needed to reach the vast majority of our community who has not been coming to the Mosques. We should invest in more schools so that Islamic schools become more affordable. We should establish scholarship funds to support deserving students. More importantly, we need programs to help the community prepare for the changing economic realities.

I admit that I do not have all the answers, and I am sure I did not cover all of the priorities. However, I hope that our community leaders can work together to get the ball rolling to prepare for a better future.

By Dr. Bassam Jody