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We the Cows: Unity in the Muslim Ummah

UNITY. What does the word mean? Let’s see what the dictionary has to say about it, shall we? ‘The state of being in an agreement and working together, the state […]

UNITY. What does the word mean? Let’s see what the dictionary has to say about it, shall we?

‘The state of being in an agreement and working together, the state of being joined together to form one unit’- Is what my copy of Oxford says.

Theoretically, it’s a great definition, something we can pen down in an exam, something that would secure top scores for sure.

But what does the word mean when put into practice? How does it apply to us, as Muslims at large, living as we are peppered across the world? What does it mean then, I wonder?

I reminisce about an old folklore that almost everybody out there knows about. “The story of the three cows”. This was how it went:

There were once a group of four cows living together in a land populated with wolves, hence, an extremely treacherous environment to live in for them. However, by grouping together, and constantly staying with each other, the cows were able to cheat the wolves of their meat.

As it was, three of the cows were of midnight black, and one of pure white, a topic brought on by one irked black cow as he called the other two black cows to council.

“When darkness falls each night, we are able to blend in to our surroundings, making it near impossible for any of the wolves to find us. But out brother, who is white, shines out like a beacon, and as a consequence, the wolves will always know where we are, we are not safe with him at night when our bodies cry for rest, and our eyelids fight for sleep. We must boycott him, we must let him go”

The three cows, having agreed to this pact, began the next day, to avoid the white cow. They would settle themselves the pasture away from the white cow who stood there, confused, and scared, while the other three enjoyed each others company, their minds free of any burden.

Wolves, having always been credited for their intelligence, detected this new disunity amongst the cows, and ganged up on the white cow, attacking it, knowing it didn’t have a chance against their strength.

As the wolves devoured the flesh of the still live cow who gazed pleadingly at his brothers, the three black cows did absolutely nothing. Occasionally dipping their heads for a blade of grass, they watched their brother being torn apart and eaten alive in mute silence.

The following night, the wolves attacked again. Why? The cows were one short, and not as strong as they had been before.  The wolves knew they could fill their bellies this night too. The cocky cows, relaxed, and off guard were taken by surprise. In the struggle that ensued, the wolves came out victorious, having succeeded in bringing down a cow. They dragged the carcass home with pride, as the remaining two cows huddled in pain and fear.

The next night proved an even easier task for the wolves in bringing down a cow, the situation being that only two were alive. That night, a terrified cow remained as he watched another brother being dragged off, his own fate only too clear to him.

The last night, a frantic and desperate cow, the one who had hatched the plan four days prior, endeavored to elude the wolves, but there was no avoiding it as they pounced for the kill, child’s play as it was for them in bringing this last cow down.

The cow, in his last final moments stolen from death, breathed his last words as the wolves began to shred his flesh, blood pouring out with each tear, “I was eaten the day the white cow was eaten”, he said before death enveloped him.

Thus was the story of the three cows.

Between us, I know a great number of morals can be derived from this story. However, sticking true to the theme of this article, let’s see what we can extract. I choose to run through a couple to remind us all where we stand.

Firstly, the story is very similar in its likeness to the Muslim ummah today. Is this not what is happening out there? People, tribes, cities, countries being demolished, houses being torn, children being left to scavenger torn limbs and fragments of what used to be their lives? We sit back, relaxing on our two thousand dollar sofas, in air conditioned rooms, with a bag of chips, staring at our plasma screens, living in the lap of luxury, simply staring at these images being flashed on TV, doing absolutely N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

And before anyone begins to try to weasel out using the cowards path, “But they are so far away! What can I do?”, “I’m only a teen, nothing I do will impact any of this!” or even, “There are people for that, so why should I bother?” Listen to yourselves, listen to your hearts and consciences, what do they tell you? Even if they don’t, on a selfish note, do you think its going to stop there? With those countries? NO. It won’t. It’ll spill over; it’ll spread like a viral disease with its never ending hunger, wanting only to be fed and fed until there is no more left to feed.

Secondly, the story has ample moral displaying the consequence of disunity. When the cows didn’t stick together, when they allowed one of them to be conquered by the enemy, it ended with all of them being defeated, with all of them being eaten.

The Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) said in a hadith mentioned in Bukhari, that the analogy of the Muslim ummah is like that of the human anatomy. “If one part of the body feels pain, then the whole body would suffer two things; sleeplessness, and fever.” The Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) is saying in the hadith, that if our body is injured, even a small cut in our finger, we discern pain, we are unable to sleep,  and our bodies go into a fever frenzy because our body is trying to fight against the bacteria, to heal up the wound, to make the body whole as it once was. The entire body is involved in the process of conquering the smallest ailment, let alone a broken limb. How many nights do we stay awake, tossing and turning into the wee hours of dawn simply because the knife slipped and you cut yourself while eating that delicious mango?

Apply this to the ummah and what do you derive? If a Muslim – even one – is suffering, be he in the north or the south, the east or the west, whether the hand or the feet, the stomach or the head are suffering, we should take it upon us, make it our burden, we should feel that very pain, undergo that very anguish as though its occurring to our father or uncle, or cousin, why? Because we are part of that body; that whole.

How many of us youth out there are desperate, wanting to be a part of that bigger picture. Well, open you eyes, ‘cause its right in front of you. You just have to know what you’re looking for. It doesn’t matter what city we’re from, it doesn’t matter what politician we prefer, or what ‘madhab’ we choose to follow, as long as the person is a sound Muslim, with firm faith in Islam, then he is a Muslim, and so are you, and that’s all that matters in the sight of Allah.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the story teaches us the consequences of betrayal. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be upon Him) says, “A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor…” (Bukhari) What happened with the cows was that they gave their brother up, hence not only jeopardizing the white cow, but themselves too eventually. What they didn’t realize was that they were next. As soon as they allowed a brother to be taken, Allah’s support was no longer with them.

So what’s your perspective on unity now?…


By Huda Thahir


  1. Haris

    Great story. Well put. It’s extremely relevant to what we are undergoing these days.
    On a completely different note, I just have to point out that cows are feminine. So the words “he” and “brothers” are bothering me a little more than it should 🙂 I mean.. why should such a great piece of writing be a notch less than perfect? Just saying.

    Again. Great work.

  2. Hmmm! Thought provoking. Jazaakumul Laahu khair