Note: this post has not been written to dissuade anyone from being involved in protests or activism for Palestine. Please continue to do so, may Allah reward you and may He rectify our ummah’s affairs.
In university, I used to take part in protests and helped to organize political events. A few of them were in support of the Palestinian cause. I was never an executive member of my university’s Muslim Students Association, rather I was heavily involved in our university’s Muslim political activism group instead. This was before all the SJW nonsense transformed that organization – our main concerns back then were the Palestine issue and other political crises in the Muslim world.
In those few years, although it made me feel better that I was doing something, I began to doubt how much of an effect it was having. Many of the Muslim activists I encountered made me feel unsettled. The majority emphasized their political activities & causes over Taqwa. It wasn’t until I lived in the Arab world during the Arab Spring that I felt deep disappointment and even despair as we Muslims destroyed our newfound opportunity to reform our countries. Even pious Muslims turned on each other, letting those with evil hearts win, and extremists of all sorts filled in the gaps left in the mess. Faith and faithful Muslims were supposed to save the day, but instead ignorance, sectarianism, desires and ego fractured religious Muslims and made them powerless and divided against the forces that were acting against them. With their political influence gone, many Muslim personalities online and offline, liberal and conservative, have continued this destructive trend, not realizing how much it is still hurting us.
Perhaps it made me too cynical, but I realized that raw political emotion, zeal & anger in reforming our situation are grossly insufficient. I’m seeing it again today as Muslims (even seekers of knowledge and scholars) are venting about Palestine and how Muslim leaders need to embrace military solutions for problems in the ummah etc. Muslim countries have already tried that though, and they failed spectacularly. It was not because they lacked military power, but because they didn’t have Allah’s help on their side.
I realized over time that our problems as an ummah were too deep for raw religious emotion (i.e. not taqwa and true faith based on knowledge) and political activism to be effective. When I was studying in the Muslim world and learning with scholars I begun to realize how seriously us Muslims are ignorant of our own religion. I entered a completely different realm of Muslim society: the world of seekers of knowledge and scholars. It drove me further into disappointment as I began to realize how many ‘scholars’ were not as knowledgeable as I thought they were. Living in a Muslim country, I further observed how much us Muslims are lacking in taqwa. Love of the dunya fills our hearts. Our egos & desires rule over us, not struggle for unity, adab or good character. Yes there are positive aspects in Muslim societies, but it is primarily us and our lack of attention to what made this ummah successful in the past that is holding us back.
Its tempting to place the blame on the disbelievers and the enemies of Islam, but the past decade has made it clear that our worst enemies are within. Further still, its tempting to solely put the blame on our enemies within, including the leaders of our countries. Rather we have to ask ourselves: if we had the power, wealth and influence, would we use it the way we want to see it being used? We decry the oppression of Muslim countries and the corruption of their leaders, but it is not uncommon to see otherwise ‘religious’ and politically outspoken Muslims oppressing their own families and neighbours, or practising harmful nepotism within their own circles of influence. If these people (us!) were in power, would they be any different than the politicians they criticize?
All this is why I removed myself from political activism. It is clear that Taqwa, Tasawwuf and Islamic Knowledge should be the first resort in seeking to rectify ourselves and the ummah. Why? You can put as much effort as humanly possible into helping the ummah with its problems, but in the end it is Allah who creates the conditions necessary for success. This is why my blog and social media pages are all about this. I’ve made this my primary activism now. This is what really grants us success in our activism. Don’t forget it.
If you reflect over any great achievement or victory on either a personal or social/political level, you will notice that ultimately it was not your efforts that were the decisive factor, rather often ‘the cards were stacked in your favour’. Despite the odds, there were a series of coincidences that led to your hard work bearing fruit.
In Islamic History we can see multiple examples of this. The Sahabah exerted great effort into staying united despite their differences and genuinely struggled for the sake of their beliefs with their lives and wealth. However they also lived in a time in which the conditions were ripe for Islam to thrive. The Arabs were looking for guidance in a time when Jewish and Christian beliefs had begun to permeate the peninsula, the appeal of their ancient beliefs had begun to wane, and rumours of a new Prophet had spread. Those Arabs who were still zealous towards their idols just happened to convert en masse to Islam despite their intense initial opposition to it. In the Roman empire, political corruption, ethnic tensions, and religious oppression against Christian sects perceived as heretical were all widespread. The Persians suddenly experienced a succession crisis that threw the bureaucracy of their great empire into chaos. The conquest of these two empires by otherwise impoverished, uneducated, ‘uncivilized’ and technologically inferior Arabs is a miracle in itself. Where did this series of convenient circumstances come from?
If one looks the history with a disbeliever’s lens, it seems like a series of incredibly lucky events, one after the other. Similar patterns occurred in later eras of Islamic revival, whether intellectual or political. But Muslims know that luck has nothing to do with it. These circumstances were predetermined and decreed by Allah. Multiple times in the Qur’an we are told that if we obey, worship and are close to Allah, He will grant us victory and success. The Sahabah lived those verses. The very generals, warriors and scholars who made the ummah successful were first fighters against their own nafs, stayed up all night to pray, were attached to the Qur’an and exerted themselves in fulfilling each other’s rights.
The opposite is also true. When we have not earned Allah’s help, we can put in as much effort as humanly possible, but no matter how hard we try, we will find ourselves frustrated. Even if we achieve a micro-victory at some point, the situation still remarkably feels as if it is acting against us at every turn.
Look at the Palestine issue today. We might be protesting, writing to our MPs, even running for elected office, but we keep hitting roadblocks. News agencies ignore our massive protests and are funded by Zionists. Governments embrace their hypocritical foreign policies that have no promise of justice for Palestinians. Even social media organizations are working hard to obscure the truth. The UN Security council vote when it comes to Israel will always be vetoed – as it has been for decades – by the USA. Why is all this happening? Because Allah has not created the circumstances necessary for our efforts to bear fruit. We haven’t earned those blessings yet.
This is not a burden, nor is it unfair. Rather it is a blessing for this ummah, and for us as individuals in our own lives. It is a constant reminder for us to turn back to Allah. Destroyed peoples do not experience this. They are allowed to be deceived by victory & success despite their evil and rebelliousness against Allah & His Messenger, until they are destroyed as punishment, either in this life or the next.
Many of us have heard the statement: there are thousands of people protesting, but only a dozen showing up for Fajr at the masjid. Same goes for studying with the ulema. We’ve heard it many times, perhaps even become tired of it, but its still true. It should not stop anyone from protesting, writing to their governments and doing everything in their power to help the cause of Muslims in Palestine. But if we are not fixing ourselves during all this, the situation is not going to improve.
Salahuddin al-Ayyubi spent decades first making himself into a pious Muslim and seeker of knowledge, then moved to correct the many internal problems of the ummah in that time. He was known to be a learned person himself and accompanied religious scholarship. He then ensured that the Fatimids were removed from power, the Qaramitans were out of the picture, and Sunni culture returned to Egypt. Only after all that did he set out to Jerusalem to remove the Crusaders. How did he do all this? I think its obvious that there was more to Salahuddin than just military genius. It started with his taqwa and religious education. Allah created the circumstances necessary for him to succeed.
Although this piece was written regarding Palestine, this is true for all of the problems in the Muslim world. No matter what part of the ummah you look at, we are in crisis. The solutions to these crises are in our behaviour with Allah, but nothing is happening. We have to earn it. We have to look history and learn from it. We have to pay attention to what the Quran is telling us. Otherwise our efforts will have been in vain.