When Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) received the final revelation of Islam, he was all alone in Hiraa and, at first, started preaching only to his intimate circle of family and friends. In pre-Islamic Arabia, people were up to their elbows in polytheism, female debasement and indulgent drinking. Today, there are some one billion Muslims around the world praying five times a day, peacefully reading and reciting the Qur’an while commuting and doing their best to stay steadfast, occasionally slipping but always holding on to the truth.
Consider the difference between the status quo then and now – that’s called change.
It wasn’t always easy though.
The Prophet(pbuh) and his companions were taunted and ridiculed. The Quraysh spared no expense when it came to torturing and abusing the new Muslims, fanatically attempting to repel them away from their faith. But with patience and reliance on Allah, things came through.
One of the problems that many of us face, is that when we think of change, we think big, we think Malcolm X, the civil rights movement or when women were first allowed to vote – and we end up feeling completely and utterly worthless. We feel intimidated as well, thinking that we’re not cut out for being agents of change. But when you think of it, agents of change throughout history were mere mortals just like you and I.
Leaving your Islamic footprint behind is not about taking on more than you can handle, it’s about working with what you know and what you’ve got.
Now let’s talk about some practical tips:
1. Choose something to excel in.
Make sure that it’s both permissible and something you’re passionate about.
It seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes we may go for a certain specialization (say medicine), or major (many of my peers from high-school went for business) because it’s in vogue. However, imagine if 90% of the population had the same profession. Not only would society’s progress be stunted, it would be a very one-dimensional place to be in and it would have very minimal prospects for positive change. Consider, on the other hand, Baba Ali’s YouTube videos. They are a delightful mix of dunya and deen. Ali’s got a knack for comedy and he’s using it to encourage positive change. Find your passion and get rewarded for it.
What if you don’t know what you’re passionate about? That’s a good question. The realm of the permissible is filled with passions to choose from, but sifting through them and finding the one that takes to your mind and your heart can be a little tricky, especially if you’ve never thought of finding your passion before. Take some of those ‘what’s your passion?’ quizzes. Even if the generated result isn’t what you’re looking for, sometimes the questions asked are quite thought provoking and insha’Allah by asking and answering them, you’ll be on track.
2. Forget about society’s expectations.
Do it for the sake of Allah.
The rule of ikhlas (doing things entirely for Allah’s sake) is essential. Make du’aa that Allah purifies your heart-and mine-from riyaa (showing off). Insha’Allah barakah (
3. Get inspired by lessons from the sunnah
even if you do it by reading abridged stories from your first-grader’s Islamic school textbook. By and by, start branching out to more elaborate versions. Of course, you should start by reading those stories in the Qu’ran. A wonderful book that shows how lessons from our beautiful faith complement personal development, is Enjoy Your Life by Sheikh Muhammed Al-‘Arayfi; it’s humorous and educational. What more could you want?
4. Don’t overburden yourself
(Allah does not burden a nafs with more than it can bear). It can be very tempting to bite off more than you can chew; when I was a freshman in college I remember taking activities brochures from whomever had them, by the end of freshman year I was involved in none of them. Borrow a page from admissions committees at Ivy League schools and be selective.
Remember the hadith, “The most beloved of deeds to Allah are the most consistent of them, even if they are few” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
6. Always be mindful of the value of time.
I have yet to fully commit to that one, but sometimes we sabotage ourselves by procrastinating our work, or just spending more time on the frivolous than we do on the important. This is a big mistake. Time is our capital in this world, if we use it properly,insha Allah, it will be for our own good in this world and the next. Make a to-do list.
7. Find a support system.
It doesn’t have to be AA style, but what you need is an environment in which you’ll thrive ad thereby insha’Allah benefit this ummah. Maybe you need to move to another state for another degree that will hone your best skills, or maybe you need to hold weekly meetings with some of the nice people from your nearest masjid to work on benefiting the local community by holding bake sales for charity.
8. Seek knowledge.
‘The seeking of knowledge is an obligation (faridah) on every Muslim’. Seeking knowledge is the key to finding out how to best employ that which Allah has given you in his service, and you get the reward of fulfilling one of the obligations of Islam that many of us often forget as we focus more on things such as salat (prayer) and siyam (fasting), etc…
9. Make lots and lots of du’aa.
You need help to remain steadfast and to succeed, and who better to ask than Allah?
A wonderful du’aa is ‘Rabbi ishrah lee sadri, wa yassir lee amree wahlul uqdatan min lisaani yafqahoo qawlee’ which translates into, ‘God ease my chest, and make my affairs easy for me and unloosen a knot in my tongue so that they may comprehend my speech/words’.
May Allah enable all of us to be proactive and inspiring members of society. Ameen.
What else can you add to this? Leave a comment below!