بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
All praise is due to Allah alone, the One Who has power over all things and to Him is the return of every affair. May the best benedictions and peace be upon the best example of humanity, Muhammad, who was foremost in his concern for the believers. To proceed:
We live in an age in which the far is made to seem near while we live aloof from that which is near. One would think that this would allow for so much more good to be done in the world but the reality is, it has resulted in a loss of humanity and the deconstruction of the family and community. In the past, neighbors protected one another, strengthened one another, and they helped one another both in material means and spiritually. Today, in much of the U.S., especially in the major cities, many people do not even know their neighbors.
Our masajid are not much better. We often do not know the families of the brothers we pray next to, or their situations – emotionally and economically. So often we are not true communities but individuals coming together under the same roof to pray. What is more, the causes that we are called to are usually for others – be it Palestine, Syria, Burma, Pakistan, or anyone else. What about the indigenous Muslims and their plight?
By thinking globally, we are seeing the local communities suffer. No not the masjids, the Muslims. Those in real need of the help from their communities. If we work locally it will have a global impact but the reverse is not necessarily true. Do we not understand that it is small, private acts done consistently for the sake of Allah that win the day; it is not the size or appearance of the act but the sincerity and depth.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote an Essay entitled “Spiritual Laws” in which we can find some advice concerning this. These excerpts are beneficial for the believer who ponders and reflects. He said, “The Intellectual life may be kept clean and healthy, if man will live the life of nature, and not import into his mind difficulties which are none of his. No man need be perplexed in his speculations. Let him do and say what strictly belongs to him, and though very ignorant of books, his nature shall not yield him any intellectual obstructions and doubts.
…The lesson is forcibly taught by these observations that our life might be much easier and simpler than we make it, that the world might be a happier place than it is, that there is no need of struggles, convulsions and despairs, of the wringing of the hands and gnashing of the teeth; that we miscreate our own evils.
…A little consideration of what takes place around us everyday, would show us that a higher law than that of our will, regulates events; that our painful labors are very unnecessary, and altogether fruitless; that only in our easy, simple spontaneous action we are strong, and by contending ourselves with obedience we become divine.
…What a man does, that he has…As a man thinks, so is he, and as a man chooseth, so is he and so is nature.
…We foolishly think, in our days of sin, that we must court friends by compliance to the customs of society, to its dress, it’s breeding, and it’s estimates…let him be great and love shall follow him…The lesson which all these observations convey is Be and not seem.
…Let us lie low in the Lord’s power, and learn that truth alone makes rich and great…Be a gift and a benediction. Shine with real light, and not the borrowed reflection of gifts. Common men are apologies for men; they bow the head, they excuse themselves with prolix reasons, they accumulate appearances, because the substance is not…real action is in silent moments…let us, if we must have great actions, make our own so.”
In these excerpts of the essay we find sound advice for the believers. If we leave off all those matters that do not immediately concern us directly, as individuals, families and communities, so much of our frustrations would be alleviated. If we simply remember that it is Allah alone who is in control over all the affairs of this life and nothing will be made manifest except by His leave, perhaps we can cease dividing and over-stretching our resources and our means and work together as individuals, families and communities to establish strength and stability amongst ourselves before we seek to save the world. Perhaps it would be good for us to remember the words of Allah’s beloved (peace and blessings be upon him), “It is from the excellence of one’s Islam that they leave that which does not concern them.” The same media which brings us the world, blinds us to the real living going on around us. That same media that makes you aware of the conditions of others, makes you heedless of your Lord…and so frustration and anxiety becomes our constant state.
Instead of seeking the acceptance of the disbelievers around us, instead of trying to impress upon them our similarities, trying to make them pleased with us, perhaps our efforts would be best spent working to help and build one another, locally, in our own masajid, in our neighborhoods, in our homes. It can never be about appearances and feelings, it has to be about hard work and struggle; about doing great deeds out of love for ourselves, our families and our neighbors; about striving in the way of Allah unknown, without fanfare – choosing the indigenous muslim community right in front of us over others. Are we not commanded to save ourselves and our families from the fire? This is our first priority, then those who are nearest, then those who are nearest. Did we forget Allah’s saying,
O you who believe!
Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him.
And let every person look to what he has sent forth for the morrow,
and fear Allah.
Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what you do.
And be not like those who forgot Allah (i.e. became disobedient to Allah)
and He caused them to forget their own-selves.
Those are the rebellious.
Are we forgetting ourselves? Our families? Our neighbors? Our communities? Understand, this is not saying that we do not help our Ummah as a whole, may Allah protect us from such thoughts. Rather we must prioritize, and when we do this, when we become stronger as a community first, our communal efforts to help others with our excess will, by Allah’s permission, have a real impact.
As long as we do not work on ourselves first, our families, our own local communities, we can blame whoever we want for our condition but I believe it’s as Emerson said elsewhere in this essay, “You will never see anything worse than yourselves.”