Introducing the Usrah
The Usrah is the primary tarbiya structure in MAS. It is a small groups of people who are at least marginally similar in their development and commitment to Islam. They come together on a regular basis to study their faith, encourage one another to righteousness and good deeds, and renew their commitment to work for Islam.
The concept of an usrah is derived from tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) teaching his companions in Dar al-Arqam (the home of one of the Prophet's companions) during the early Meccan period. The companions would gather there regularly to learn from the Prophet and encourage each other's commitment to Islam.
The most commonly known definition of the word usrah is “family.” However, the word does have other connotations in the Arabic language, all of which are important if one is to truly understand what the usrah is in the understanding of MAS. These connotations include: a protective shield, a person’s family, and a group of people who are joined together by a common cause. The Usrah of the man, is his group, because he feels stronger with them. All of these meanings are associate and desired here. The usrah is a group of people who share a commitment to Islam, support and protect one another, and become so close in the process that it is as if they truly are a family. This unity of brotherhood remind us of nothing less than the unity of the Muhajireen –The Immigrants to Medina—and the Ansar—The Helpers.
What is Tarbiya?
The word "Tarbiya" is an Arabic word that linguistically means increase, growth, and loftiness. Conventionally, Tarbiya means the development and training of people in various aspects; including but not limited to spiritual, physical, educational, moral, and leadership training.
At MAS, the Tarbiya process is considered the most important process and the Tarbiya Department is a permanent department in the organization. This belief traces its origin to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad as he—peace be upon him—invested a lot of effort instilling Tarbiya in his companions. As a result of his effort, he not only left a great message, the message of Islam, but also left a great generation that carried the message and spread it all over the world and moved humanity from darkness to light. Islamic history proved that whenever this process was considered, Muslims were able to succeed and Islam prevailed. Imam Hasan Al-Banna, the founder and the leader of a great Islamic movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, said "Whenever you find the good Muslim you find with him all the means for great success."
The Pillars of the Usrah
The MAS Usrah has three major foundations: ta’aruf (mutual acquaintance), tafahum (mutual understanding), and takaful (mutual support).
Ta’aruf is to know one another. It means that all members of the group should know about one another on a deeper level. They should know where they are from, what kinds of experiences they’ve had in their life, whether or not they are married, how many kids they may or may not have, etc. This is the first step in the development of the bonds between Usrah members.
Tafahum is to understand one another. This is a necessary result of the first pillar and comes with time and the exerted sincere effort of every member of the Usrah to contribute and participate. It is a level of relationship where not only do people truly know one other but they truly understand one another. It means that nuances are not always required, sentences often times do not need to be completed, and the bonds of friendship are very tight and solid.
Takaful is the mutually support one another. This is, again, the result of the pillars before it. It is the manifestation of the efforts exerted in the building of Ta’aruf and Tafahum. When the members reach this pillar they are able to achieve the highest level of brotherhood: ithaar, to give preference to their brothers, or sisters, over themselves and help them in whatever they may need help or support in , from the most serious of matters, to the most mundane.
Revived MAS Tarbiya Curriculum
The Revived MAS Usrah Curriculum is based on the following five core subjects, the study of which is alternated every week according the time available during the Usrah gathering.
- Seerah, Biographies (Lives of the Companions and Islamic Revivers)
- Tazkiya, and
- Understanding - Da'wah
The Usrah, however, is much more than simply meeting on a weekly basis at a given time and location. In addition to these areas of study within the Usrah gathering itself, the MAS Usrah is required to participate in:
- Personal Aims and Activities - weekly action items or goals for the Usrah members to achieve.
- Community Service Project - once a month, the Usrah collectively participates in an Usrah Activity designed for self-introspection and giving back to the community.