When I was young, I knew the names of most of our neighbours and their children’s names. I know where they live and their flat numbers. I used to go to the nearby shop even if it was a bit late to get what I need and may pay later when my father visited the shop to pay for the shopping list we got without paying! There was a trust, safety, and intimacy; these concepts I had felt and known even before learning them at school.
But for my parents, this was nothing in comparison to their own days as they were raised up in the countryside where they did not just know about their neighbours’ names but also their family history. They told us how people used to support one another in good and bad times, how they shared their food, how their doors were always opened to all, how they did not worry about their old parents or small children because they were all close, and how the poor were sure they would get what they had asked for. I will never forget how my mother was very delighted when we spent the summer holiday at my grandparents’. She did not worry about anything even about us; her children, because everybody had known her and she had known everyone. She would always find someone around to give her a hand at any time!
This does not mean that life was perfect; of course it was not. There was all of these social vices that would exist in any society, modern or traditional, though in different context; e.g. poverty, ignorance, crime, superstition, etc. But this means that life was different; people think they were belonging not just to the place but more important to each other! Their daily interaction as well as cooperation regardless their differences make them happy.
Is this the meaning of COMMUNITY? I think; yes it is!
I experienced the meaning of community when I moved to live in the UK. At the beginning, we lived in the university accommodation where I met with different people from different background; each one had different plans, thoughts and beliefs but we cooperate and do our best to help each other. We were remarkably happy which again does not mean that there were no problems or we all were wonderful friends; of course No. I think we just understood consciously or unconsciously that we need each other and we need to cooperate and to accept our differences to enjoy those years.
What happened then? Lots of my friends, living in different parts of the world, say the same thing; “We do not know our neighbours and sometimes do not even see them!” “We do not expect others to contact or visit except in social occasions!” “If we get a call from others it is not because they care but because they either have to or want something.” May be the life rhythm has become too fast, too rough, too technical, too expensive and too superficial to create the community that reflects the image of one body with its different parts. May be it is the rigid individualism or ego centered world that has cloaked this pure sense of community! I do not know! But what I know for definite is that there is no such joy as that experienced when living in a healthy community.
By the way, what inspired me to write about community was the new hijri year 1439. Yesterday was the first day of Muharram; the first month in the Islamic calendar. It’s a wonderful occasion to remember the image of community at Madinah. They too were from different backgrounds, different shapes, sizes, and colours may be different dialects and languages as well as different beliefs as Jews and Christians were living there too. But they cooperated to create that community that would enable them to enjoy their differences while living safe, happy and strong. And they made it!
Happy New Hijri Year!
And have a lovely weekend!
With my best wishes,