I’m reading alot about Middle East politics and current events. Whenever I immerse myself in the chaos and turmoil happening overseas, I start to get discouraged and beat down – reading about all the civilians, including innocent women and children getting shot, killed, injured, or worse. I start to lose hope in the fate of the world, disheartened at the idea of changing anything for the better.
Perhaps equally disturbing is the state of affairs in the U.S. The news media’s biased coverage of events overseas, the diminishing of basic civil rights, the NSA’s surveillance of citizens, and the increasing suspicion of anything and anyone labeled “different.” The general public seems to have accepted (or at least tolerated) these actions and beliefs. I have read the sentiment that “if you’re not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide.” This leads us to the implication that anyone who objects to these injustices, must be at fault of wrongdoing.
I’m slightly nervous to even be researching these kinds of things myself. With the information we now know about surveillance by Big Brother, I worry about my web searches being tracked, worry about my library records being monitored. Could I myself someday be the victim of an unconstitutional “investigation?” Would my guarantee of free speech be stripped away from me, my right to a fair trial, all because of the NDAA and the Patriot Act?
And then I think back to my studies at the University of Michigan, how I learned to question what is in front of me, investigate, find the answers, do the research myself, come to my OWN conclusions. But perhaps even more importantly in my university studies, I learned that I have a VOICE.
But still I wonder to myself, what CAN be done? What does little ol’ me have the power to change in a world so wrought with corruption and power imbalances? I read about grassroots movements, peaceful protests, and the sprout of independent media sources that can fuel political activism. I hear from journalists fighting to protect their right to deliver the information from BOTH sides without being victims of unlawful interrogations or suspected affiliations with terrorist groups. I realize that there are others who disagree with the government’s tactics and want to bring the power back to the people.
In this, I find hope.
Today as I was walking into work, I watched a duck fly straight into a glass door. It fell to the ground and I saw it flailing around, trying to right itself, trying to fly away. It struggled, shook its head in its upside-down position, flapped its wings, wiggled its feet. It did everything it could to regain itself.
As I watched this struggling duck, it brought me right down to the here and now. I wanted nothing more than for this duck to survive. It didn’t. It died right there in front of me, and there was nothing I could do about it.
This reminded me that Allah is in control of our fate. Allah knows everything, the All-Powerful, the All-Knowing. Allah knows what will happen in the Middle East, in the U.S., all over the world. Allah is our Creator – closer to us than our own jugular vein.
I think often about death and the grave. A friend of mine from high school died. He went to Afghanistan to fight, and when he returned, he died. I wonder to myself if he took his own life. But either way, whether he did or didn’t, he is now in the grave, his lifeless body deteriorating in his coffin, flesh falling off of bone. Over time his body will be nothing but dust and bones. “To Allah We Belong and To Him We Will Return.” His soul is no longer in his body.
“Live in this world as though you are a stranger or a traveler (passing through it).” (Muslim) ( To read more about the nature of the soul after death, click here.)
I wonder to myself if he has been questioned yet. I wonder if the grave has been made spacious for him, or if the earth is crushing in on him. What was it like when his soul was removed from his body? Did it come out like a drop of water or did it rip and tear like steel wool? I only wonder these things in relation to myself, knowing I too will one day be in the grave, my body deteriorating, my soul returned to Allah.
When my time comes, it won’t matter what I know about international politics. The only thing that will matter is my good deeds, my faith in Allah, and the end result of my test here on earth. It is important for me to remember that this life is only temporary; all the good, all the bad – it is fleeting. Death is the only thing that is certain in this world.
So where does that leave me? The prophet himself (salalhu alayhi wa salaam) was intricately involved in the political sphere at the time Islam was being spread throughout the Middle East. However, I somewhat suspect that the personal is more important than the political, and that the pillars of Islam (shahada, salat, zakat, sawm, and hajj) should be put first and foremost in a muslim’s life.
But then again, Islam rules on all aspects of a muslim’s life, with the Qur’an giving us information on how to act in the community, how to govern, and about the rights of each individual living in a society. So in that respect, our duties as a muslim include the way we conduct ourselves in and contribute to the greater society. Does political activism hold a place for me? Or should I remain focused solely on my personal struggles to adhere to the tenets of Islam?
I feel I can’t ignore the struggles of other muslims and non-muslims here and overseas and all over the world, and in my heart, I want to reach out to the oppressed, the abused, the rejected individuals of our world in the name of Islam. That urge to protect those with less seems to go hand-in-hand with the true Islam I have come to know and love.
Insha’allah my aspirations and dreams of equality, and all actions I take towards those goals, will be viewed as good deeds on the day of judgement, and insha’allah may Allah guide me on this path and lead me towards good deeds and fruitful actions for the good of others.