The Way Forward – Part 1

I have a principle in life. “I will not allow what is not in my control to prevent me from doing what is in my control.” That is based on the reality that when we stand before Allahﷻ, we will not be asked, ‘What happened?’ But we will be asked, ‘What did you do?’ That means accepting that the only one in my control is myself. Nobody else. So, that is who I must focus on. Do what is in my control and not allow circumstances, media, people, or even my own feelings, to distract or discourage me from doing whatever I can to make a positive impact. Some of the most common doubts and thoughts that interfere with action are based around the question, ‘What difference can I, as an individual, make?’ Remember and remind others that all great change, all revolutions, all re-writing of history begins with one person. Allahﷻ sent one Nabi, one Rasool, not a committee or team, to create change in an entire nation. So, my first message today to myself and you is, to focus on ourselves. Do what you must and Allahﷻ will create the effect.

Today as we look at what is happening to Muslims worldwide, we seem to be without solutions. But Allahﷻ told us the solution to our problems:

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَـٰلِحًا مِّن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُۥ حَيَوٰةً طَيِّبَةً وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُم بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ

Nahl 16: 97    Whoever does good, whether male or female, and is a believer, We will surely bless them with a good life, and We will certainly reward them according to the best of their deeds.

The formula is very simple and straightforward; it’s literally only two things. Faith and righteous deeds. If I, as an individual, return to Allahﷻ, then my dua can change my life, my circumstances, and with the Will of Allahﷻ, my world. I always remind myself of what the famous author, Loren Eiseley wrote about his learning about the power of one person to make an impact. I am paraphrasing as I see it happening in my mind. Eiseley was walking on the beach early one morning. The previous night there had been a huge storm, and the beach was littered with debris. In that were hundreds of starfish. As he walked, Eiseley saw someone in the distance, picking up something from the beach and throwing it into the waves. When he got close to the person, he saw that it was a boy throwing starfish into the sea. Eiseley asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ The boy replied, ‘Throwing the stars into the sea so that they don’t die. If they remain on the sand, they will dry and die.’ Eiseley swept his open palm at the uncountable starfish on the beach and asked, ‘Do you have any idea how many starfish are on this beach alone? Then think of the number of starfish that get thrown up on all the beaches in the world. You are one kid, on this beach. What difference can you make?”

The boy looked at Eiseley, then he looked at the starfish that he was holding, threw it far into the waves and said, ‘It made a difference to that one.’ It is a common copout that we use by globalizing a problem and then feeling helpless to solve it, which we feel justifies our inaction. Instead, when we are faced with a problem, if we ask, ‘What can I do about this?’ we will find a solution that we can implement. Take global hunger as an example. Either you can complain about it, or you can feed one person. Ditto with any problem which we see as ‘global’. There is always a solution if we localize it to ourselves and ask, ‘What can I do about this?’ Today when you go to a protest or sit-in or whatever, never forget that you are making a difference. You are not allowing what is not in your power i.e., change the situation in the ME, to prevent you from doing what is in your control i.e., to raise your voice against it. That is the game changer in life. Just do it.

In these times when there is so much grief, depression, fear, despair even, it is good to let our brothers and sisters in Palestine know that they are not alone. That not only we but millions of Muslims from all over the world stand with them. Standing with us also are those who are not Muslim, but who share our respect for the sanctity of human life, who have not sold their conscience for a pittance and whose tongues are not sealed against the truth. We have reached such a state of moral collapse that even the gathering of millions of people all over the world is not enough to convince our leaders that killing children is a crime. Remember that there was a time when slavery was legal and helping a slave to free himself was illegal. Remember that those who implemented the holocaust in Germany in 1930s were obeying the law and those who tried to help the victims escape were called lawbreakers. All those and many more acts of oppression owe their demise to one simple truth; that somewhere someone stood up and said, ‘Not in my name. I will not allow you to commit crimes against humanity and God in my name.’ We have smashed our moral compass and totally lost the plot. At this time, it is hugely invigorating, encouraging and incredibly important to stand together with other right-thinking people, whose hearts have not become harder than stone. We don’t have the power to stop what is happening, but we have the power to speak out against it. Give a voice to those who need it the most. We have the best guidance of Rasoolullahﷺ who told us to stop evil with our hands and to raise our voices against it and to hate it in our hearts. So, let our voices be heard in every forum everywhere.

عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيّ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَنْ رَأَى مِنْكُمْ مُنْكَرًا فَلْيُغَيِّرْهُ بِيَدِهِ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِقَلْبِهِ وَذَلِكَ أَضْعَفُ الْإِيمَانِ

Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (R) reported: Rasoolullah said, “Whoever of you sees evil, let him change it with his hand. If he cannot do so, then with his tongue. If he cannot do so, then with his heart, which is the weakest level of faith.” [Hadith Sahih – Muslim]

The second doubt that plagues us is, ‘We did so much but nothing happened, so what is the use of doing more?’ To counter it, I remind myself of the weighing scale. Many years ago in my childhood, I watched a salesman measuring out grain in a store in India when this thought occurred to me. Have you ever seen a traditional weighing scale in a shop selling food grains? It is called a ‘Balance’ and has two pans: one on either side of a pivot, hanging from a horizontal beam at the top. The weight measure is put in one pan and material being weighed in the other. There is an extremely important life lesson to be learnt in this. Please notice what the seller does.

First, he puts the weight measure in one pan. Say 20 kilos. That pan descends to the countertop and sits firmly there. Then the salesman uses a scoop and starts to pour grain into the other pan. As the pan fills, even when he has put 19 kilos in it, what do you see happening to the pans? Nothing. There is no change in the situation. The pan with the weight remains firmly on the countertop. And the pan with the rice remains in the air. However, the man does not stop pouring the rice into the pan even though his effort seems to have been wasted. He continues to pour the grain in with his scoop until he sees a small movement in the pans and the pan with the grain starts to descend. Once that happens and the pans are almost level, the man changes his method of putting in the grain. Now instead of the scoop, he uses his hand. He takes a handful of rice and very gently he drops a few grains at a time into the pan. And then lo and behold, the pan with the rice descends to the countertop and the pan with the weight rises in the air.

When I saw this, I learnt two essential lessons in life: both equally true:

Lesson # 1: Until 19 kilos, nothing will happen

Lesson # 2: At 20 the balance will tip

So also in life, when 19 kilos of effort have gone into the problem you are trying to solve or the dream you are trying to achieve and you start to lose hope because ‘nothing is happening’ it is good to remember that ‘nothing’ is supposed to happen. The one who understands this does not lose hope or energy but smiles in anticipation of reaching the last stage when he knows that the pan will start to descend to the countertop.

The third thought that I want to leave you with is, if you are building the most magnificent masjid or any building, what do you need first? A solid foundation. A foundation that is big and deep enough to support the superstructure. Imagine that we are rocks. And we want to be a part of this building. But we say to ourselves, ‘I want to be on the facing of the building, polished and shining before the world.’ Then believe me, the building will never stand. For any building to take shape, first, you need rocks who are willing to go into the foundation and be buried, never to be seen again, known only to the builder but nobody else. Without those rocks the building can never stand. But those rocks are satisfied knowing that the building stands on their shoulders.

Think of all the Sahaba who died before Fatah Makkah and before the Futuhaat of the Khilafa Rashida. Sumaiyya bint Khayyat (RA) and Yasir bin A’amir (R), the parents of Ammar bin Yasir (R), Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib (R), Mus’ab bin Umair (R), Abdullah bin Jahash (R), Sa’ad bin Mua’ad (R) and others. They didn’t see the spread of Islam or the success of the mission of Rasoolullahﷺ. They suffered deprivation but stood firm and didn’t waver and then they were killed and Allahﷻ accepted them as Shuhada. Yet not one of them gave up or stopped making the effort. And in the end, when victory came as it was destined to, they were its beneficiaries because that success rode on their shoulders. That is their Sadaqa Jaariya until the Last Day. Allahﷻ declared as their Witness:

وَلَمَّا رَءَا ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ ٱلْأَحْزَابَ قَالُوا۟ هَـٰذَا مَا وَعَدَنَا ٱللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُۥ وَصَدَقَ ٱللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُۥ وَمَا زَادَهُمْ إِلَّآ إِيمَـٰنًا وَتَسْلِيمًا

مِّنَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ رِجَالٌ صَدَقُوا۟ مَا عَـٰهَدُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ عَلَيْهِ فَمِنْهُم مَّن قَضَىٰ نَحْبَهُۥ وَمِنْهُم مَّن يَنتَظِرُ وَمَا بَدَّلُوا۟ تَبْدِيلًا

Ahzab 33: 22-23    When the believers saw the enemy alliance, they said, “This is what Allah and His Messenger had promised us. The promise of Allah and His Messenger has come true.” And this only increased them in faith and submission. Among the believers are men who have proven true to what they pledged to Allah. Some of them have fulfilled their pledge ˹with their lives˺, others are waiting ˹their turn˺. They have never changed ˹their commitment˺ in the least.

Let us remember that victory and defeat is only decided at the end and is not decided by who is left standing, but by which side you stood on. Honor is in what you live and die for, not in how much money you make. Allahﷻ will decide who won and who lost when we meet Him. Our brothers and sisters in Gaza are a living example for the world of what it means to live and die with honor. May Allahﷻ be pleased with them and protect them from all harm. May Allahﷻ grant us the courage to speak the truth, stand for the truth and to work to make the truth prevail in our lives and in the world.