If we don't plan for our time and money, time and money will control us and we will be nothing but slaves running day and night achieving hardly anything for this world or for the Everlasting life. We will be lost in the competitive wilderness of life until we reach our graves.
By the epoch,
humanity is indeed at a loss,
except those who have faith
and do good works, and enjoin truth and justice
upon one other
and enjoin patience
upon one another.
(Quran 103: 1 - 3)
But if we take charge of our time and money, we can achieve things.
The most certain thing about life is its uncertainty. We see it every day. That’s why it is important to plan.
The community is nothing but each one of us collectively. If we individually plan our contribution to society while begging for God's help, two things will happen, God willing. First, we will gradually emerge from our current state of despair. Second, we will be personally successful in this world and in the everlasting World to come. And that is where real success lies.
Below are some ideas that can help jump-start your own thinking and planning process to benefit the community in the next 12 months.
1. Develop Better Communication Skills
If someone needs better communication skills, it is us. Muslims are facing an unending public relations nightmare:
The gap between neighbors in the US and Canada is growing. Almost half of our neighbors would like our liberties to be curtailed according a recent Cornell University public opinion poll.
This distrust is reflected in the job market: Muslims are the last to be hired and the first to be fired today. According to the last Canadian Census, Muslims have higher educational qualifications than Catholics and Protestants, but they are still twice as likely to be unemployed. Seventy five percent of Muslims surveyed by Zogby International in the US were either discriminated themselves or knew someone who was.
Terrorism and the war on terror are fueling Islamophobia. This is resulting into pressure on the Muslim family putting stress on spousal relationships and children.
All these challenges are challenges of communication that have become the primary challenge for Muslims living in the West. While we can suggest and expect Muslim organizations, the media, our governments and civil society to deal with these challenges, we as an individuals must also devote some resources in mastering the art and technology of communication.
Better interpersonal communication skills are important for our families and our relations with our neighbors. Good language skills open more doors for immigrants. Improved writing and speaking skills will help you not only on the job but also as a citizen and as a Muslim to enhance your profile and prospects in life and the community.
English is the lingua franca of the world, and unless Muslims develop their skills and talents in the field of writing and communication in this language, we will continue to lose. There are more non-Muslims who have written about Islam and Muslims in North America than Muslims. We do not even have good books that can be given out on the issues of Jihad, terrorism, peace and women. In fact, most of the books and articles that are considered “scholarly” on these topics tend to be written by those who hate Islam and Muslims, not those interested in dialogue and understanding.
Here are some things you can do in this regard:
a. Sign up for writing and speech classes.
b. Have your Masjid start classes on interpersonal communication, writing, speech and accent improvement.
c. Check out your local library or community college for free or low-cost classes and seminars or request them to start one.
d. With the help of your librarian, a mentor or an Internet search, develop a reading list on communication skills.
e. Read, read and read some more instead of watching TV.
f. Write letters to the editor, editorials, and commentaries.
g. If you are a student, no matter what your major, take some courses in writing, public speaking, journalism, audio/video or multimedia production, etc.
h. Consider switching your major to journalism, broadcasting, creative writing or at least make these programs your minor.
i. Organize your family to write a book together.
j. Have a monthly family circle in which creative writing is shared or a presentation is made.
k. Lean the art of television production by using your digital camera and computer.
And if you want to submit your work for the web, please send it to us at Sound Vision. We'll post the best writing Insha Allah and figure out how to guide you further.
2. Become an Agent for Muslim Unity
"Muslims are the new n....rs of America" as a sympathetic Jewish attorney of a Palestinian told me. If we don't stand up for our rights no one else will. Muslims in America continue to live in a virtual internment camp while Muslim resources remain divided and unavailable to mount a legal challenge and a civil right movement.
The political and public relations challenges which Muslim face in America are not impossible to handle for a community is among the most highly educated and professional Muslim communities in the world.
Muslims need to come together to meet the challenges we face today. A common agenda has been discussed for several years but we remain divided. For Muslims, unity is not an option but an obligation.
Who is leading Muslims in America today? No, I am not looking for a Mehdi, a Khalifa, or one organization. I am looking for a common sense solution today. If the labor movement, women, and other minorities can organize their federations and confederations to address their common agenda successfully, why have we failed to do that?
Everyone agrees that unity is what we need but hardly anyone does anything about it. I request that we all, individually, become agents of unity wherever we are. Here is a list of things you can do:
a. Ask your Masjid leadership what they are doing for Muslim unity.
b. Meet, call, and write to Muslim leaders you know and ask what they are doing to bring Muslims together.
c. If you attend any conventions make sure you use your contacts to bring the unity agenda at the forefront of the program.
d. Set aside a budget and allocate time for the cause of Muslim unity developing a plan of action for something you can do individually.
e. Form a network of Muslims in your city who are willing to work for national unity.
f. Devote time for intra-Muslim dialog like among Shias and Sunnis.
g. Adopt behavior which builds a community (e.g. saying Salam to those you know and those you don’t; smiling, which is an act of charity; visiting the sick; caring for the hungry; consoling the grief-stricken, etc.) and avoid behaviors that break a community (e.g. suspicion, backbiting, slander, mockery, etc.).
h. Learn about conflict resolution.
i. People split when they don't see respect for accountability, criticism and proper consultation. How is your family and your community regarding these two pillars of diversity?
j. Implement at least three methods to fight racism within the community and society.
Muslims coming together will, insha Allah become an asset for American instead of remaining a suspect which is guilty until proven innocent.
3. Become a Better Citizen
Remember all those nice people of other faiths who supported Muslims after the backlash of 9/11? I love America because of those people. There are tens of millions of good people in America who, despite all the propaganda against Islam, stand for the rights of Muslims. Muslims need to work with them to build bridges of understanding. Humanity is one big brotherhood and sisterhood. God tells us that we were all one but humans later divided themselves up.
a. All politics is local. Do you personally know people at the village and county level who represent you? Have you broken bread with them?
b. Adopt a local cause at the family level for a year. Muslims are always concerned about something international which is understandable, but it is a local cause which will give you the opportunity to network and develop relationships. One good issue is domestic violence.
c. Is your Masjid a part of any social, justice, peace, or interfaith coalition? Maybe you can represent them.
d. If you are a student are you more busy with your MSA than with other student groups and student government? Go where people are, instead of doing an Islam Awareness week where only Muslims are sitting.
e. Can you do an internship at the ACLU or volunteer for civil rights?
f. Attend a local interfaith, labor, or peace and justice network. Showing up sometimes is half of the work.
g. Volunteer in soup kitchens or homeless shelters run by other groups.
h. Donate to a social justice program which Quakers may have in your area.
i. Learn about other groups' social services programs.
4. Increase your time for America
America is facing one of the most difficult times in its history.
We are closing our minds to critical thinkers like Tariq Ramadan, who is described by Time magazine as one of the 100 most likely innovators of the 21st century. Yusuf Islam of Peace Train is detained and deported from the US as terror suspect while in Rome he was later awarded as "Man for Peace" at the summit of 28 Nobel Peace Prize laureates.
America is not considered a better citizen in the global village today as we refused to sign the Kyoto treaty on global warming, anti-mines treaty, and we have not supported the International War Crimes Tribunal.
We are afraid to travel abroad and are making it impossible for others to travel to America. Free travel is connected with free trade, an essential for capitalism. We are loosing customers as Europeans are gaining. Foreign students are heading for other shores along with their brains and Euros.
We are liked only in Israel, India and in some polls in England. Survey after survey tell us that a majority of people in the rest of the world, Europeans, Asians, Africans, Muslim, Christians, Buddhist and others dislike American policies. Are all of them jealous of our freedoms or there is more to it?
But these issues are hardly discussed in America today. Here are a few things we can do:
a. Join a body which discusses issues important to America like the Council on Foreign Relations.
b. Resist the dehumanization of America. This is what warmongers do. Since we know that dehumanization of Muslims is resulting in criminal behavior, we should be the first ones to stand up fighting when articles, emails and some leaders dehumanize America and our neighbors.
c. Study and communicate with an American think tank.
d. Teach a language class in Arabic, Urdu, Persian or any other language which is so much needed. Maybe your Masjid can do this which will allow you to provide cultural diversity training as well.
e. Buy airtime to broadcast the daily Muslim talk radio show which Radio Islam has started in Chicago during which neighbors talk to each other.
Time is our greatest resource. Devote yours to causes that deserve it. Also remember that when you are giving time to an organization or network, your input and ideas are also more likely to be considered by its leadership.
Remembering the millions of people who have lost their lives or livelihood in the Indonesian earthquake and tsunamis, we know that we cannot take life for granted. It is very humbling to see human helplessness.
Let's submit to God Almighty by achieving something better for humanity in 2005 before our time is up in this world.