February 22, 2004

Activism At School

We, as young Muslims at school, have heard many things about Islam: ?Its
all about peace?all about love?all about believing in Allah.?
But what does all this mean for us in real life? How many things is Islam about,
after all? The answer is sweet and simple; it?s about all, yes that?s
right, all! It is about peace and compassion, it is entirely based upon God
Consciousness, and it is about faith. How do they all connect? Simple as well.
There has to be something that encompasses all these factors, and more; it?s
activism.

“Proclaim openly all that you have been bidden [to say], and leave
alone all those who continue to associate partners with God.? [15:94]

The idea of being active in the community is thought to be very primitive by
some as if it?s something done by those teenagers who have nothing to
do in school; or that being ?active? means you can?t be ?cool?.
Others believe in order for a person to be involved in the community, he or
she has to be super-knowledgeable about Islam. The balanced approach to looking
at activism is the way the Prophet Muhammad (S) did. He spent most of his life
struggling. Through his activism began a change, which soon changed the whole
Arabian Peninsula. It was his courage, his determination, his peaceful and loving
nature, and above all his trust in Allah that brought him success. Not the success
that we think of in terms of money or glory, rather the success of the next
life, the eternal life and the reality.

As Umar (R), the Prophet?s beloved companion once said, ?A man?s
actions are judged by his intention, if his intention for migration is to marry,
then that?s what he will earn, and if his migration is to please Allah,
then that is what he shell reap.? If we closely examine these words, it
should strike us; are our intentions right? For example, do we pray in the perfect
manner to impress others around us, or to truly connect with Allah (SWT)? This
is the first step to activism, getting our intentions straight, and if they
aren?t, we should start all over; forget what we have done, and start
clean.

“Man shall have nothing except for what he strives for” [53:39]

Now you might sit there thinking, what?s the point of talking about our
intentions and inner feelings? Wasn?t this supposed to be about activism
at school? The reality of the issue is that your MSA will not just start up
on its own, and nor will it do it the right way by it self. There has to be
a vision, a goal that it wants to achieve, and more importantly there has to
be a mature leader. The leaders must have the correct intentions and objectives.
What is this vision, you might ask? Well it?s basically it is defined
by our intentions.

We have already established our intention; it is to strive for Allah?s
sake, and to please Him. The real question is how to achieve our goals. How
do we act upon it? Will everything happen automatically, after the correct intention?
NO! We must now create an action plan of our personal life in accordance with
our intention. Think of things that fit into this broad guideline, it doesn?t
necessarily have to be Islamic as such, but something that is fun and Halal.
Come up with a checklist, something that includes daily and periodic activities.

If we really put our brains to this, we should get something as follows:

  • Reading Quran daily (5-10mins)
  • Praying all 5 daily prayers on time
  • Give Charity as much as possible whether with money or simply as an energetic
    smile to others
  • Getting more active in the Muslim community, school, and the Masajid (Mosques).

Obviously there could be a lot of things added, or done in a different manner,
but on the whole this is a good start!

Now lets focus on the last part of the list, the involvement in the community.
We probably have heard a lot about the other things, so lets just stick to the
topic :-)

Activism, as said earlier, should be exercised the way the Prophet Muhammad
(S) did. He dedicated his life to it, until his very end, and it was due to
his activism and Allah?s Mercy that he accomplished what he did. For many
people activism is considered to be just doing the work, which may mean just
helping out at the mosque in your community. It may also mean establishing a
Muslim club or organization even if there is absolutely no need for one, since
there might be already a couple in that area!

However, such youth often lack the true purpose behind all this work. True
activism involves the hard part: being social. That means getting out in the
public, meeting new people, even those that you may not like very much, and
befriending them. To make them feel that they can depend on you when they need
help, and ask you for advice. You shouldn?t be ?just another boring
religious dude? in their eyes, instead a guiding light! Activism is not
about building an empty structure or organization at school with 10 exec members.

Activism may include fund raising for the needy and unfortunate in the community,
helping the seniors with shoveling their driveway, and getting the teenagers
at your school involved in Islamic activities. For most of us the last scenario
suits the most.

We probably know many of our friends who hang out in a bad crowd, or perhaps
do the wrong things as well; it is our duty as true Muslims, with that right
intention, is to help these brothers and sisters. We must be that guiding light,
helping them out of that ditch that they have been stuck in for so long. All
this requires creativity; the conventional Friday Khutbahs after school or the
monthly talks by an outside speaker are not enough. We have to adopt new methods
to attract the common teenagers.

Some ideas for such activities:

  • Starting a short Halaqa after every Friday Prayer, where people can ask
    and say what they want, not having to be looked at strangely, and discuss
    Islam.
  • Have fun sporting events to increase brotherhood / sisterhood, after which
    there would a short Islamic reminder
  • Organize a weekly Islamic Video session, in which you show Islamic movies,
    such as ?The Message?, and others.

So what is the solution? There is no one answer. It depends on the people you
are dealing with, and how you think they would react to certain things. The
pace at which you will move with your ideas also depends on how enthusiastic
they might be. However the most important thing to remember is that we keep
checking our intention, and observe if the initiative is following the guidelines.
True guidance only lies with Allah (SWT), but we should be the workers who spread
that guidance, because He says:

Therefore give warning. Your duty is only to warn them: you are not their keeper.
(88: 21-22).

In short before we plan anything for any Muslim activity we should think to
our selves of these two points:

1) Why am I doing it? The answer should be to only please Allah SWT.
2) How am I doing it? Our method should not go against the teachings of the
Quraan or the Sunnah. Certainly we don?t want our actions to go in vane
by displeasing Him.

The Prophet (pbuh) once said that my Ummah is like a body, when one part of
it hurts the whole body feels the pain/sleeplessness. He also said that those
who are not concerned with the affairs of other are not from us (i.e. Muslims).
So dear brothers and sisters if we think that the troubles and misguidance of
?that looser there? has nothing to do with us, think again.

May Allah (SWT) always keep us under his light, and guide us to the straight
path and give us young Muslims the ability to work for His cause. May He grant
us the patience to bear with all the different people and the wisdom to be true
leaders of Islam.