Does AlMaghrib Promote Tribalism?
Note on Banus & Qabeelahs
I imagine that when Muhammad Alshareef was devising a layout for AlMaghrib Institute’s student body, he received inspiration from the pre-Islamic Mekkan society.
Grouping AlMaghrib students under a tribal system—who woulda thunk it?!
For most of us, the very mention of the word “tribalism” invokes images of hostility and division, a Haram-ness, all rooted in a political history of the Jahiliyyah days. Yet rather than imbibing this negative connotation, Muhammad Alshareef used the layout of tribalism and Halal-ified it into something Islamically motivating: a system of Banus and Qabeelahs. The idea was to foster an atmosphere of unity and belonging for students on the basis of knowledge. Under AlMaghrib Institute, tribes became the defining characteristic of organizational student bodies, and every tribe is managed by the local members collectively. As a result of such teamwork, an element of brother/sisterhood is formed.
But every community begins small.
You see, when an aspiring clan (or “Banu” in AlMaghrib nomenclature) achieves a consistent number of student registrations for the first few classes, it then has the privilege of upgrading to a “Qabeelah” status. This emerging tribe gains recognition from neighboring Qabeelahs, thereby establishing itself as a partaker in the AlMaghrib race for knowledge.
In over thirty locations across North America and the UK, tens of thousands of Muslim students have pledged loyalty to the AlMaghrib tribe of their locality. These Muslims have likened their Qabeelah to a unique family body—a source of identity, if you like. Students of each community will carry the banner of their tribe wherever they go (metaphorically speaking of course), their logos, slogans and achievements plastered daringly on their foreheads.
If you take a close look at the time of the Sahabah and Taabi’een, you will notice that throughout their struggle to please Allah they always had positive competition amongst themselves. Remember the famous day Umar (ra’), tried beating Abu Bakr (ra’) in giving charity? This was an example of blessed competition for the sake of Allah. This sense of competition was not only found among individuals, but it also strongly existed among the tribes as well. Each tribal family desired to do more for Islam than the other tribal families, all for the sake of Allah. AlMaghrib Institute has implemented this noble quality of Islamic culture into its learning system to help produce a unique educational experience.
Every tribe paints its glory with a different palette of colors: Qabeelat Shams of London projects itself as “the shining example” for all to imitate (or so they believe—I’m sure other tribes would beg to differ). Qabeelat Ittihaad? They’ve creatively dubbed themselves as “a tribe without borders,” for their tribe embraces students from both Ontario and Michigan. Qabeelat Nurayn chose something on the lengthier side: “Nurayn, the light house that guides to the truth, the ‘ilm and shines bright with Emaan!” And students from Qabeelat Al Mass perceive themselves as the “diamonds” of AlMaghrib Institute. Why? Perhaps it has something to do with exam grades.
Or innocent delusions…Who knows, really?
This competition is derived from a long forgotten Islamic tradition, as Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “So compete with one another in good deeds; wheresoever you may be, Allah will bring you all together, and indeed Allah is able to do all things.” [2:148].
It’s a Halal competition and a race for good. Could we ask for anything better?
That aside, there is something beautiful associated with AlMaghrib communities, something precious. Regardless of location and tribe, the love for all AlMaghribers—fi sabeelillah— is always present. The students have spoken, and here is a sample of their words:
All of this—the meeting of the brothers—you know, the people that we met in those classes, until today, there’s a special type of connection. And we didn’t know at the time, but then our Mashaayikh (instructors) taught us afterwards, they explained to us that this connection—this deep love and affinity and relationship that we have with all these brothers and sisters from the class is “silah”—Al’ilmu silatun bayna ‘ahlih—that “knowledge is a type of kinship between the people”…It’s a connection, a very deep connection.
While the enlarged presence of brotherhood finds itself to be the most solid knot between AlMaghribers, there is yet another benefit derived from the tribal system: the students’ increased involvement in community efforts. An Islamic learning institution run by the students themselves raises an entire student body of devoted volunteers. Together they plan “Sisters’ Socials,” student study sessions, community efforts and involvements, as well as forum discussions that tickle your musings.
With every seminar that passes, respect and mutual admiration is created by the closely-knit symbiosis of the students with their instructors. Moreover, every opportunity for students to congregate in a unified pursuit of knowledge is like a patch of cloth. This cloth is stitched to the blanket of brotherhood—growing and growing until eventually, it swathes the students with an unbreakable affinity and love.
Love for one another, for the inspiring instructors that teach them, for the ‘Ilm they learn, for the traveling visitors they host, and mostly, for the Deen that is revived with each course offered. Truly, it is a student experience unlike any before.
“And for this, let those aspire who have aspirations” [83:26].
Perhaps achieving a Qabeelah status is the first step in a journey of many. Until then, we remain loose from the invisible ropes that bond the AlMaghrib seekers of knowledge together. Banu Madinatayn, AlMaghrib Clan of the Twin Cities, will join these ranks, bi’ithnillah!