"I will lose 10 lbs"; "I will exercise more"; "I will spend my money more carefully" - these are just some examples of the kind of resolutions many of us make at various time markers in our lives, most notably, at the beginning of a new year.
But for most Muslims, while the goals we set are usually praiseworthy, few, if any, are aimed at contributing to Islam on a community level.
We might, for instance, aim to read more Islamic books or give more in charity. But many of us wouldn't intend to teach at the local weekend Islamic school and share our knowledge or devote our time, not just our money, to a Masjid building project. It's time to focus not just on our own personal development. We've got to start considering what we can do for Islam in our community and for the Ummah in general.
Below are 9 ideas that you can use or simply check out to jumpstart your own thinking and planning process when developing resolutions.
1. Become an Agent for Muslim Unity
Muslims need to come together to meet the challenges we face today. A common agenda has been there for several years but we remain divided. For Muslims, unity is not an option but an obligation. If the labor movement, women, and other minorities can organize on the basis of a federation/confederation model to address their common agenda successfully, why have we failed to do that? United we stand, divided we fall. Muslims must come together at the national level for a common Muslim agenda. I request that we all, individually, become agents of unity wherever we are. Here is a list of things you can do:
- Find out what your Masjid is doing for Muslim unity
- Meet, call, and write to Muslim leaders you know and ask what they are doing to bring Muslims together
- Budget for funds and time you can donate for Muslim unity
- Can you form a network of Muslims in your city who are willing to work for the national unity?
- Pick up a few points to fight the racism within the community and society
- Adopt a plan of action for something you can do individually
2. Work with other faith groups
Remember 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, firmly believe Islam is a religion of peace. Muslims need to work with them to build bridges of understanding. Humanity is one big brotherhood and sisterhood. Allah tells us that we were all one but humans later divided themselves up. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was concerned for all human beings and worked with others. Can you do any of the following things?
- Attend the next Parliament of the World Religions in Barcelona, Spain where 20,000 people of different faiths will gather in July 2004
- Volunteer in soup kitchens or homeless shelters run by other faith groups
- Donate to a social justice program which Quakers may have in your area
- Learn about their social services programs
3. Develop writing and communication skills
Yes, it's a cliche to say that Muslims have too many doctors and engineers and not enough writers. But this needs to be said over and over again because it seems we've made little headway as an Ummah in this area. 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.
Sign up for writing classes. Check out your local library or community center for free or low-cost classes and seminars. Read, read, and read. Write letters to the editor, editorials, and more. 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!
4. Take care of New Muslims
Takbeer, Allahu Akbar. That is how we welcome a new Muslim in our Masjid. But what happens to these Muslims later on? One survey determined that about 50 percent of new Muslims in Illinois and about 65 percent in the state of New York leave Islam within a few years. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, but if we do our duty of properly devoting our personal time and community resources, it will help stem the tide of conversions out of Islam. At this moment only 26 percent of Masjids regularly organize New Muslim classes. Each Masjid can develop a Moakha system to work with a new Muslim.
5. Learn about conflict resolution
Remember the fights in the Masjid? Or the wonderful active sister who left the Masjid because of a dispute with the Board of Directors? What about the brother who was a great teacher at the Islamic school until the administration decided to reduce his salary without informing him well in advance?
These are all cases where conflict resolution could have come in handy. There is a crying need for Muslims who can negotiate and mediate amongst Muslims. This is a skill every Muslim community needs to invest in.
It's also a skill you should consider developing. You could do a degree in conflict resolution, but you don't have to go that far. You can attend seminars and/or one-day classes. Business schools may offer a course a few weeks long in conflict resolution. Consider gaining and taking these skills to the Masjid and to your local Islamic center.
6. Increase your time for the Masjid
It's easy to drop a couple of dollars in a Masjid donation box, but it's not so easy to devote a couple of hours every few weeks to Dawa to the Masjid's neighbors.
When was the last time your Masjid had an open house? When were your non-Muslim friends invited to attend a party in the Masjid? While everyone in Masjids is ready to work on a Masjid building or a school project, there are very few who are willing to spare time for neighborhood relations or media communication. Many times, there is no one available to properly handle inquires left on the Masjid's answering machine.
Time is our greatest resource, not money. Devote yours to causes that deserve it. Also remember that when you are giving time to the Masjid, your input and ideas are also more likely to be considered by its administration.
7. Make your Muslim organizations more open to feedback and accountability
Have things been running the same way for years at your local Islamic center? You know, disorganized, or closed off, with a couple of people having the only say in all matters?
Many, many Masjids and Islamic centers lack management and organizational skills. They are run by an elite group of people who make all of the decisions without proper consultation with the community. They are also not held accountable for what they do or how the money coming into the Masjid or organization is spent. This doesn't mean that everything they are doing is wrong. But there needs to be a more transparent and open system that will benefit all Muslims in the community, the male and the female, the young and the old, the immigrant and the Muslim born in America.
You can help start the process of change. This has to be done with plenty of wisdom and patience. But you and others will benefit from working to make your Islamic organization more open and accountable to the community
8. Adopt a Muslim issue which few pay attention to
This commitment doesn't have to be for a whole year. It can be for only three months if you like. The aim is simply to develop a specialization in a specific area of need and benefit to Muslims.
One of the best is the assault on Muslim civil rights in America. It's here, it's real, all of those involved in the issue are accessible, and you can see the results of your efforts more easily. But don't stop there. You can also choose other areas of the world and issues that Muslims have ignored or given sparse attention to lately: Kashmir, Chechnya, environmental issues and domestic violence are all some examples.
9. Plan for Islam in your kids' classroom and your workplace
Ramadan and Eid are no longer unknown to many non-Muslims in America. They are now mentioned along with Christmas and Hanukkah, as media coverage of Ramadan this year indicates.
That said, though, there will always be the new student, your child's teacher next year, or a boss and the coworker who need to know about our celebrations, as well as issues which concern us.
One good project to work on is creating more awareness of Islam in schools and the workplace. There are still issues which cause misunderstanding and confusion. Hijab, prayer and Friday prayers are still issues of contention in a number of workplaces and schools.
The Ummah is nothing but each one of us collectively. If we individually plan our contribution to the Ummah while begging for God's help, two things will happen, God willing. First, the Ummah will gradually come out of its 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. Labbaik Allahumma labbaik, labbaika la sharika laka labbaik. Innal hamda wan nemata laka wal mulk, la sharika lak. Here I am, at Your service my Lord, at Your service. You have no Partners. And I am at your service. You are the Only Praiseworthy One; blessing comes only through You; You are the only Sovereign without anything being Your partner. Here I am at Your Service.