The idea of facilitating social good has been an integral part of Islam since its inception. Within Islam striving for the common good is a necessity for all communities, Muslim or not, as well as preventing social harm.
It’s no surprise really that the practice and tenets of religion have so much in common with the growing area of social enterprise. Both share common ground in pursuing social justice and a sense of compassion. Both also increasingly share an evolving understanding of what it means to work with communities rather than simply doing good to them.
Professor Mohammad Hashim Kamali in his book, Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, cites examples of scholars, academics, and philosophers discussing the need for a collective effort when applying Islamic law to social issues. The diverse nature of a country or society, and complexity of social issues demands input from the whole community, for example experts in medicine if dealing with issues around organ donation.
This collective effort has been the driving force behind much of our work whether it is in health, education, projects on identity or exploring Islam’s cultural and artistic past. Our health work (www.caringforyourheart.org) has included the participation of GPs, patients, Islamic scholars, dieticians, film-makers, Sure Start centres, supermarkets, and schools. This kind of rich diversity, this mix of people is our most valuable asset during our projects and leads to unexpected innovation, new ways of addressing long-standing problems and new networks of collaboration for the future.
Our health resources combine faith and medical information. They also use film, calligraphy, the azan and animation to help reinforce health messages, while creating a new vocabulary for health or any other area of our work. They are used in GP surgeries and hospitals but also in libraries, internet cafes, community centres and schools in Birmingham and London. Our work permeates everyday environments and the resources become an organic process.
In the course of our work we meet people who will never be heard in the mainstream media or give lectures to audiences of thought-leaders, practitioners and policy makers. Yet these very people in their consistent struggle to improve their communities are an immense untapped source of knowledge.
The growing field of social entrepreneurship and innovation must above all else take into account the collective effort. Equally the diverse nature of Islam and its creative message of the common good has much to offer Muslim communities and wider society.