Lessons for a new year
Posted by Yacoob on January 11, 2008
Once again, we’ve entered a new year – both in English terms and Islamic. And while the English new year is often associated with ‘holiday time’, increased crime, road accidents, and other terrible events that strike each ‘Festive season’, the Islamic new year is different.
Our new year is based on the migration, or Hijrah, of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) – a time where the believers (i.e. Muslims) were instructed to leave their home, Mecca, where they were being oppressed by their own people – people who hadn’t accepted Islam, and saw it fit to persecute those who had embraced the religion.
Today’s Jummah talk drew some parallels between the Hijrah and today’s time, and I’d like to share some of these with you. I’ll paraphrase the essence of what he was saying, and add some of my own thoughts. I hope that I can accurately convey the wisdom and teachings the speaker was trying to bring across this afternoon. If there are any factual inaccuracies in this post, please correct me. My Historical knowledge is not as good as it could be.
Firstly, we should look to our pious predescessors – the first Muslims – with admiration, for the trials and suffering they braved for Islam.
They were subjected to tremendously cruel crimes against humanity (to borrow a modern term) – being insulted, tortured, and sometimes even killed – all because they accepted the Truth: that there is none worthy of worship but Allah, and Muhammad (s.a.w.) is His messenger.
Why did they undergo such trauma? Why did they hold on, in the face of such torment and pain?
The answer is simple: they understood that Islam is the Truth; and they understood what Islam meant for the world. It was sent to save humanity from the darkness and ignorance it was languishing in. It was sent to bring mankind back to our natural way (Fitrah) – our natural recognition of Allah as being the only deity. Pure monotheism – which has been the message of all the Prophets, peace be upon them - from Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, and all those in between.
We watch movies nowadays where the good guys – usually a lone hero – is sent on some mission to save the world. And we cheer when he succeeds.
Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)’s mission was the same – only this was real life; not Hollywood stories and special effects.
The first Muslims understood how important the cause of Islam was – and by understanding that, it was natural that they could sacrifice everything for Islam: their homes, wealth, possessions, even their lives.
These days, we have to be willing to sacrifice for Islam. We have to seriously look at the world we live in, analyse it, and recognise that Islam is the solution to all our problems – if only we took the time to learn it and live it in its purest form. If we give for Islam, if we sacrifice, and we work together, Allah will surely change the condition of this ummah.
2. Self control
The companions of the Prophet put up with so much abuse, and their leader, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) put up with so much abuse – but they did not lose control. They didn’t retaliate and fight back in anger.
In the face of severe attacks against our religion and character, we should not give in to the animalistic instinct to retaliate – to fight back violently. Instead, we should remember our predescessors’ example, and seek help – as Allah advises us in the Quran – in patience and prayer. Allah is in control of everything. He could so easily remove the abuse, silence those who say and do what they are doing – but He doesn’t do that. He doesn’t make it that easy for us – because this is all a test. We have to pass this test by reacting in the right way – and that reaction should be largely based on self-control. Remember Ramadaan, just a few months ago? When we ‘trained’, for 30 days, in self-control. We should try to apply the results of that training all year round; and take our predescessors as the example to follow.
3. Truth over personal interests
The Quraysh leaders of the time, according to the speaker, knew that Islam was the truth; yet they refused to accept it, because it was against their personal interests. They were the richest, most powerful tribe in Arabia, and the message of Islam threatened their status and worldly position.
They chose to ignore, even fight Islam – instead putting their own personal interests as their top priority.
In the end, Truth prevailed, and they were defeated in this world. As for the Hereafter, their punishment will be given by the True Judge of all things, Almighty Allah.
Always put truth and righteousness above your own personal interests. As the Quran states, be just and speak the truth, even if it is against yourself.
4. Under siege
A very good parallel drawn was one relating to sieges and boycotts. In the Mecca period, the Muslims were put under siege for three years. No one was allowed to take food or supplies to them, and no one was allowed to trade with them. This strategy, employed by the leaders of the time, was meant to weaken the resolve of the Muslims.
Today, in Palestine, Muslims (and even non-Muslims) are similarly under siege. Under the guise of ‘security’ and other manipulations of conditions, the people of that country are being starved and deprived of basic things, and the oppressors are systematically trying to strip away their dignity and destroy their resolve in standing up for the Truth – standing up to stay and reclaim the land that is their own.
Just as the first Muslims endured such sieges, relying on Allah alone – and not people – so too must the Muslims of the modern age endure this strategy that the oppressors are so ruthlessly employing. And just as the Muslims of the past prevailed, by the mercy of Allah, so too will the Muslims of today prevail, insha-Allah.
5. Pluralistic society
In the Meccan period, the Muslims lived side by side with non-believers: polytheists, idol-worshippers, and others who lived by other religious systems, beliefs and practices.
The Muslims did not isolate themselves, worrying about the possible negative influence that they may be subjected to, as a result of living among those in ignorance.
The Muslims were strong in their Islam, and built their own identity – despite living in a pluralistic society.
Today, in non-Muslim countries, we also live in pluralistic societies. Yet some of us seek to isolate ourselves from other groups, living in enclaves and protecting our own way of life – not sharing our beliefs and beautiful deen with others.
We should again take example from the first Muslims, and live side by side with non-Muslims without hostility. If we’re strong enough in our Islam – we should be trying to share this deen with them; not running away from them. It takes a lot of courage, and confidence to do it, but insha-Allah, if the will is there, Allah will make a way. We just need to equip ourselves with the necessary tools to educate others about Islam. Da’wah organisations such as the Discover Islam Centre (Cape Town), and Bridges Foundation (Egypt), are doing excellent work in the field of Da’wah. Find out more about such organisations, and help if you can, and learn what you can from them.
It is the duty of every single Muslim to help spread this deen of Islam. Each of us is responsible for making an effort. We shouldn’t just leave it to the imams, sheikhs, Tablighis and others who do it for a living, or as a large part of their lives.
We each have the potential to invite others to Islam; and the first step to that is to try and get your own Islam right. Educate yourself, and try to improve yourself. When you feel you know enough – and you don’t need to know a lot – maybe you’ll have the courage to try. There are lots of great resources out there to learn and teach the basics of Islam. Check organisations like IPCI and the Bridges Foundation.