There was a time when 60% of Americans disapproved of Jews. Universities would limit the number of Jewish people who could attend their schools. Hollywood would routinely stereotype them. In 1939, a ship called St. Louis attempted to bring Jewish refugees seeking asylum from Nazis to the United States; unfortunately, they were denied entry.
The Jewish community worked hard to change this, and they were successful. Surveys now say that Jews are the most liked religious group in the United States.
We, as Muslim Americans, must plan for a better future for ourselves and the Ummah.
Thinking about the future, evaluating our options, and planning for it are commandments from God Almighty. The following verse is the only verse in which God Almighty twice delivers the command “Ittaqul Allah,” (be mindful of God) while ordering each one of us to think about the future.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَلْتَنْظُرْ نَفْسٌ مَا قَدَّمَتْ لِغَدٍ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
You who believe! Be mindful of God, and let each person consider carefully what it sends ahead for tomorrow; be mindful of God, for God is well aware of everything you do. (Quran 59:18)
The Context in Which We Are Planning:
This new year has dawned in a unique situation:
- Our country, which committed genocide of its indigenous people, has provided 10,000 tons of military equipment to Israel, which is committing genocide of Palestinians. This is on top of the ongoing occupation and apartheid being carried out, as defined by Israel’s own human rights organization B’tSalem. Our country, which helped stop the genocide in Bosnia and has signed the genocide prevention treaty, has actively blocked all efforts for a ceasefire.
- While the Muslim Ummah is united for a free Palestine, Arab countries are led by kings and dictators who do not reflect the feelings of their population and lack courage or trust in God.
- Before the current phase of genocide in Palestine there was the so-called War on Terror. A Brown University study found that the total death toll in these post-9/11 warzones could be at least 4.5-4.7 million (and counting).
- In this context, Muslim Americans, together with our Jewish and Christian allies, have the responsibility to assert the importance of freedom at home and abroad. Freedom, like Iman (faith), does not stay at one level. It goes either up or down based on our efforts.
- We must empower ourselves to meet the challenges of moving our country toward peace and justice.
Muslims around the world are in a struggle for freedom, justice and Islam. It is an honorable struggle. Freedom and democracy are struggling for their survival in America. The ideals of free speech are seriously and systematically compromised when university presidents are forced to resign as a consequence of not limiting the freedom of speech of pro-Palestinian voices.
What can we do this year to empower ourselves? How can we influence the policies of our government to ensure that our taxes are used to support freedom and justice instead of supporting genocide, occupation, and apartheid?
Muslim Americans must increase our capacity to influence the future for America and the Ummah. But this will require us to think, plan, and take charge of our time and money.
Thinking is ibada, or worship. In the Quran, Allah repeatedly challenges us to think, to wonder, to think deeply, and rethink. لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ , لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ And sometimes, God expresses fury at why people don’t think: أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ , أَفَلَا تَتَفَكَّرُونَ ,
What is Your Mission?
Adopt the mission of all the Prophets as your own personal mission.
لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنْزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ وَأَنْزَلْنَا الْحَدِيدَ فِيهِ بَأْسٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَلِيَعْلَمَ اللَّهُ مَنْ يَنْصُرُهُ وَرُسُلَهُ بِالْغَيْبِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ
We sent Our messengers with clear signs, the Scripture and the Balance, so that people could uphold justice: We also sent iron, with its mighty strength and many uses for mankind, so that God could mark out those who would help Him and His messengers though they cannot see Him. Truly God is Powerful, Almighty. (Quran 57:25)
A Good Model to Base Your Plan On
The following Dua (supplication) serves as a good model upon which to develop our personal plans. We must plan both for this life which we love as well as the everlasting life of the hereafter, as well as seek God’s forgiveness for our shortcomings.
رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
…‘Our Lord, give us good in this world and in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.’ (Quran 2:201)
So plan for:
- This world
- The everlasting next life
- Saving ourselves from the hellfire
5 Must-Have Items For Your Power Plan 2024
After Allah, you know yourself the best. However, given the above context, we strongly recommend you consider the following:
1. Invest in young people.
Young people have done an amazing job of standing up for a free Palestine. Nelson Mandela said youth critically contributed to ending apartheid in South Africa. Young people also fought to extricate America from Vietnam. Not just Muslims, but young Jews are also at the forefront of this new freedom struggle, just as they are in the struggle to save our planet.
What you can do yourself:
- Plan to invest in your children to be better Muslims, better students, and better citizens
- Incorporate the 3 Cs of Prophetic success strategies in young Muslims’ development
- Enroll them in NextGen organizing training and other civic engagement trainings
- Encourage at least one child to go into civic engagement, even as we encourage children to become doctors and engineers
What your Masjid can do: The Masjid is how Muslims organize at the local level. You need to develop relationships with the Muslim leaders, both men and women, as well as Imams to ensure the following:
- Each Masjid should adopt a school in its area
- Each Masjid should have a public education committee to support students in high school
- Each Masjid should have an MSA (Muslim Students’ Association) support committee to help students at campuses
- Each Masjid should have a budget dedicated to supporting youth groups and MSAs
- Develop support staff for schools and campuses. At just two Chicago-area campuses, Jewish students are served by 14 Hillel staff. Hillel is the organization for Jewish students at colleges. But in the same schools MSA had no staff
- Offer internships and mentorship. AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) trains hundreds of people every year and places them in Congress, administrative posts, think tanks, and media
- Sponsor some students for Muslim-run congressional internship programs
- Organize Khutbas (sermons) that express appreciation for young people’s achievements and help parents train their high-schoolers on civic engagement and communication skills
2. Engagement with society
Muslims are a small minority. Our influence will remain marginal unless we engage with our neighbors, our society, and our country. Relationships with allies should be built before we need them. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was a well-connected person. For most of his life, Muslims were a minority. But due to his character, all people trusted him.
One of the major hurdles of Muslim engagement with society is that people hear “politics” and think “dirty politics.” Civic engagement is much broader than politics, and even politics cannot be left to those who make it dirty. I consider civic engagement to be an act of worship, an Ibadah. It is Amal Saleh. Amal Saleh, or virtuous deeds, and it is a major Quranic concept.
God Almighty tell us in the Quran that Amal Saleh is essential for our success:
وَٱلْعَصْرِ إِنَّ ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ لَفِى خُسْر
إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَعَمِلُوا۟ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا۟ بِٱلْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا۟ بِٱلصَّبْرِ
By the passage of time! Surely humanity is in ˹grave˺ loss, except those who have faith, do good, and urge each other to the truth, and urge each other to perseverance.
Here is a short list of, Amal Saleh, or righteous deeds:
- Standing up for justice
- Amr bil maroof
- Nahi anil Munkar
- Connecting with neighbors
- Standing up for the poor and the oppressed
- Working for peace
None of the above 6 , Amal Saleh, or righteous deeds can be carried out properly without civic engagement or shall we say politics.
Questions to ask:
- For Individuals:
- How engaged am I with my neighbors?
- Can I run for office?
- Who can I encourage to run for office?
- Can I develop a relationship with someone who is already running?
- Can I take part in a campaign?
- Can I attend a training on civic engagement 101, or about advocacy, or about running for office?
- Can I get trained to serve on a board?
- What city committee, board, or commission can I serve on?
- For Masjids:
- Does your masjid have a civic engagement committee?
- Can the committee develop its plan for 2024?
- 90% of all politics can be done by Masjids, just as Dr. King and churches played a role in fighting for civil rights.
- Can the Masjid organize and offer a civic engagement 101 class?
3. The 3 Cs of Prophetic Success
How did the Prophet become so successful? Christian missionaries, Orientalists, and Islamophobes love to tell you that it was through battle and violence. But out of the Prophet’s 23,000 days of life, he only spent just 6 days in battle.
His real success strategies included three elements.
- Communication: Master the art and technology of communication. The Prophet used every means of communication available to him at that time in Arabia for his messaging: يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّبِىُّ إِنَّآ أَرْسَلْنَٰكَ شَٰهِدًا وَمُبَشِّرًا وَنَذِيرًا (Quran 33:45)
- Care for Humanity: How much time and money have we and our Masjids budgeted for caring for our broader community, fulfilling our duty for our neighborhoods’ needs (Quran 107 & 76:9)?
- Coalition & Networking: Celebrated author Karen Armstrong says "The Prophet built a peaceful coalition of tribes and achieved victory by an ingenious and inspiring campaign of nonviolence."
Here’s how to incorporate the 3 Cs into your own plan:
- Invest time and money into mastering the art and technology of communication.
- Learn to become a better writer and a better speaker.
- Audit your Masjid. How much is it investing in communication?
- Subscribe and contribute to Muslim Network TV.
- Join Sound Vision’s Media Watch team.
- Get trained in how to effectively interact with and influence the media
- Care for humanity
- Evaluate how much time and money you can devote to taking care of humanity offering assistance with fighting hunger and homelessness.
- See if your Masjid provides social services to all, rather than just Muslims.
- Coalition-building and Networking:
- Find or establish a Muslim network in your local area.
- Develop a network within your profession.
- See if your community is part of any broader coalitions. What budget can your Masjid dedicate to coalition work?
Read more on how to incorporate the Prophet’s success strategies.
4. Making more money and sharing more.
Money is power. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) distributes $100 million to politicians every year. And that’s just what goes through AIPAC. It doesn’t include the many other similar PACs or other forms of contribution.
Time Magazine reports that even some charities were involved in funneling $105 Million of funds to Islamophobic groups. It is the power of money which forced resignations from the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard when they defended students demonstrating for Palestinians’ human rights on campus.
The Prophet was a businessman, peace be upon him. He controlled half of Makkah’s trade while working for Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her. And he encouraged Muslims to engage in trade. The first coalition he signed onto, hilful fudool, was intended to protect strangers and traders.
According to a survey, Muslim Americans have lower incomes than other Americans despite having similar levels of education. Approximately 40% of Muslim Americans report household incomes under $30,000. The survey also finds that Muslims are three times as likely as other Americans to be without a job and looking for work. About 27% own their own businesses. New York alone has 96,000 Muslim-owned businesses. But on the whole, Muslims are behind in making and sharing money.
- Questions to ask:
- What can you do to make more money this year?
- What skills and courses will increase your capacity to make more money?
- Are you a part of a Muslim business network, or can you create one?
- Do you have a Muslim Chamber of Commerce, or can you start one?
- Can you organize a network of Muslims in your sector?
- Can you get your imam to talk about learning about entrepreneurship and sharing this in a Khutba (sermon)?
- Can you organize small businesses to learn the art of entrepreneurship?
- Does your Masjid have a Muslim business committee?
Distribution of your money:
Several surveys have found that Muslim-Americans are more generous than the rest of America in terms of giving money and time. They on average gave $3,242 in 2021 as compared to $1,905.23 for the general population.
However, it seems that most of our donations go toward disaster relief and Masjids. These are two very important areas of contribution, but we need to think about a different model of giving that enables and empowers us for the long-term.
Here is a suggested distribution of our funds which we recommend that you adopt for your 2024 Power Plan.
5. Connecting with the Source of Power.
Allah tells us: وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ
Seek help with steadfastness and prayer– though this is hard indeed for anyone but the humble. (Quran 2:45)
Tahajjud: It is not an obligatory prayer, but it is powerful. Consider getting up early or just a bit before Fajr. The Prophet Muhammad, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, our model of earthly and eternal success, always woke up early. Take the time to wonder about the creation of the universe, as Allah commands us to do in the Quran. Read the Quran in Salat, and take extended Sajdas (prostrations).
Fast often: Fasting helps us become more thankful and more mindful of God Almighty. Intermittent fasting is now a fad, but it has always been recommended in Islam. The Prophet used to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. We can follow that or develop our own schedule.
Consume less and share more: The whole world is after us to buy and consume more. Careless consumption is demanding endless production and forcing the ruthless use of fossil fuels, which are destroying the only planet we have. So please consume less and share more this year.
Make Dua: Allah is the source of power. Submitting to God will liberate us from submitting to tyrants. Each Dua (supplication), however, is a statement of our goal. We have to then incorporate it into our plans. Allah says “that a human being will only have what s/he has worked towards. (Quran 53:39)
وَأَنْ لَيْسَ لِلْإِنْسَانِ إِلَّا مَا سَعَى
God actually dislikes it if we say things which we don’t do:
كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَنْ تَقُولُوا مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ
“It is most hateful to God that you say things and then do not do them” (Quran 61:3)
Developing a plan, taking action, and then depending on Allah is called Tawakkul in the Quran.
Once you develop a plan, keep reviewing it and tweaking it through the early months of 2024 so that it becomes a balanced document. Only Allah knows the future, so adjusting the plan as circumstances demand is fine.
Translate your plans into a daily and weekly routine. It should have a presence in your daily to do list.
And before you go to bed every day, reflect on your day. If you did something good as planned, say Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God). If you forgot something, say Subhaan Allah (Glory be to God). And if something was done wrong, say Astaghfirullah (I see God’s forgiveness).
We don’t control the world. God does. Allah just wants to see what we’re doing about it. God will hold us to account for our effort, not the results. We find our success in the next life. Thank You Allah for this blessing.
Insha Allah (God willing), by developing and implementing our plans, we can work towards a future where American Muslims become people of influence and power who are wealthy enough to spend more on their empowerment to seek the pleasure of Allah.