If you had seen the two men, broken and bleeding from the rocks thrown at them, you would have easily dismissed the idea that today, we would be writing an article about their success story - especially the one whose shoes were filled with blood.
But this man, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, did not despair, even in his pain. He prayed sincerely, deeply, and fervently. He did not know the future, but he knew that even in his state of utter desperation, he needed to act, along with putting his full trust in God. It was his determination to act in these circumstances that made the difference.
He asked himself: What can I do? What do I control? What is my responsibility?
Muslim blood flows like water. The largest concentration camp in the world is currently filled with Uyghur Muslims. The largest refugee camp is filled with the Rohingya Muslims of Burma. India has taken away the citizenship of 4 million Muslims.
The “War on Terror” began in 2001, and its fallout has been documented. A Johns Hopkins University study found that over a ten-year period, two million people died a violent death at the hands of war or terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another study on the same topic put the number at four million.
Yet, despite these statistics, the victims of the violence are blamed for being violent themselves.
Muslims’ struggle for freedom, peace, justice and Islam itself in different parts of the world is also under attack. Dictators, colonizers, Islamophobes, and terrorists are using every means to suppress a movement for freedom and liberty.
It’s very easy to discuss the state of the Ummah over coffee table conversations, lamenting the apathy or heartlessness of those we don’t control. But what am I doing about it? What are you doing?
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, like all other prophets was appointed by God to help people stand up for peace, justice, fairness and equity. (Quran 57:25)
It was this prophetic mission which the Prophet was striving for. But hardly anyone was listening.
As bad as things are for us, consider this: The Prophet was in an utter state of helplessness during his Prophethood in Makkah. He had about a hundred people who followed him. Eighty percent of his followers escaped to Habasha (North East Africa). As his followers continued to be tortured and killed, he sought a safe haven, where the Muslims could pray and worship in peace and security.
The Prophet developed three key strategies grounded in the Quran. Following these three success strategies now is Sunnah, or the path of the Prophet for us. I call them the “three ‘c’ strategies”.
The Prophet used each and every means of communication available at that time in Arabia to convey his message. So the path of the Prophet, Sunnah, for us is to use each and every means of communication available in our time for the Prophetic mission of establishing peace, justice, fairness, and equity in the society.
God appointed Prophet Muhammad to do convey His message to people. (Quran 33:45-46).
Growing up, I attended a Madrassa in Pakistan where students were required to read pre-Islamic poetry, which was the primary communication in the Prophet’s time. I noticed that the Prophet used every method available. This included inviting people, hanging a notice on the door of the Kaba, dinners, visiting Makkah’s 14 flea markets, and more.
We cannot work on the Prophetic mission of peace and justice, which he assigned us in his last sermon at the mount of Arafat, without connecting and communicating effectively with others.
We must observe what means of communication are used in our time, what methods are most effective, and do our duty.
That is what God will ask us about. So let’s ask ourselves now.
2. Care for humanity
We must become better human beings ourselves, individually, to be able to carry the Prophetic mission of helping people to stand up for peace, justice, fairness, and equity.
And the only way we become better human beings is by taking care of those who are oppressed or in need.
Throughout the Quran, we see this. In Surah Al-Maun (Quran, chapter 107), God mentions two sets of the characteristics of the person who denies faith. The first set is that s/he does not care for the hungry, turns away the orphan, and does not share what s/he has. The second is that s/he is lazy in his or her prayers. Taking care of God’s creation along with worshiping the Creator are, therefore, are inextricably linked and twin tests of one’s faith.
God expects us to take care of others purely to please Him, without even expecting a thank you or reward in return (Quran 76:9). This Godliness is a requirement to carry God’s message of the Prophetic mission of peace, justice, fairness, and equity in this world.
The Prophet took care of people regardless of their religion. And he did this not only when he gained a position of relative peace and power in Madinah, but even when he was suffering in Makkah.
An example of this is when a stranger approached him seeking help because Abu Jahl, the tormentor of Muslims, had taken his goods without a payment. The Prophet could have turned him away, excusing himself that he had no power to help him, given the desperate state of the Muslims at the time. But he did not. He approached Abu Jahl, who returned the money - despite his ongoing abuse of the Prophet.
It took me some time to realize that when you take care of other human beings, no matter what state you are in, it makes you a better person.
If you are not a higher level of human being, you cannot carry a higher level message to others. That is why the Prophets were always the best in character and were those who cared for the weak and desperate.
Muslims were the poor, needy, and slaves. Yet Allah told them to take care of others. Not just Muslims, But everyone. Regardless of faith.
Along with care for humanity and using all means of communications available to him, building coalitions and alliances were another success strategy of the Prophet. Here is what author Karen Armstrong says about it:
Prophet built a peaceful coalition of tribes and achieved victory by an ingenious and inspiring campaign of nonviolence.
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and the Muslims were a minority in Makkah as well as in Madinah almost all of his life.
Building coalition and alliances that crossed religious and tribal lines was essential to the Prophet’s success. He reached out to those were not Muslim for assistance, even as he sought help with Allah for his struggles.
Even at the time of strong conflict God recommended Muslims to cooperate in what is good and right:
And do not let the hatred of a people in shutting you out of the Sacred Mosque lead you to transgress. Still cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear God; in-deed, God is severe in penalty. (Quran 5:2)
The Prophet believe in coalition building, alliances and co-existence that he negotiated 12 treaties even in Madinah, his peace sanctuary, that established the religious rights of Jews, Christians, and pagans in the city-state. These emphasized the importance of Muslims treating their non-Muslim co-citizens and neighbors with liberty, justice, respect, and dignity.
The prophet began developing alliances and coalitions even before he got to Madinah. While in Makkah, on his return from his trip from Taif, the Prophet was barred from the city by Abu Lahab. This would be the modern-day equivalent of stripping him of citizenship from the land of his birth. He sought help for this. Finally, Mutam ibn Adi, a Mushrik who never accepted Islam even after the Prophet invited him to do so, stepped forward. He was his sponsor, and ensured that the Prophet returned to Makkah unharmed.
The Prophet recognized Mutam, praised him, and the Muslims of Madinah honored him in the best way they could when he died: with the poetry of Hassan bin Thabit, the poet of the Prophet, who recited poetry in praise of Mutam standing in the Prophet’s mosque.
Christian missionaries and Islamophobes blame the Prophet that he went around conquering people, spreading Islam with sword. Unfortunately extremists like ISIS also believe that.
The fact is that Prophet Muhammad spent only six days in his entire life of 22,000 plus days in battle as God asked him to defend his peace sanctuary. From both sides less than 400 people died.
His main success strategies were using all means of communication, being caring to all being, and developing coalition and alliance for the common cause of establishing peace, justice, fairness, and equity, his Prophetic mission.
Like the Prophet, we must not just pray, but act as well. However, actions must be well-thought out, planned out, and put in place.
Muslims are generous and good people Alhamdu lillah. Since 9/11, the number of Masjids in America have doubled. We have donated to causes local and domestic, whether it was to help those suffering from natural disasters in our own cities, like Hurricane Katrina, to those suffering because of the war in Syria. Muslim Americans have donated $1.3 billion to Syrian refugees.
But we have no impact on public policy, on what our government can do. And this is a tremendous waste of opportunity. Living in a democracy, participation is key to influencing policy. And the way to do that is simple: Make phone calls, send emails, write letters. This makes a difference. At minimum, it takes is ten minutes.
I chair Burma Task Force as a volunteer. Alhamdu lillah, thanks to our coalition, Muslims and neighbors of other faith working together, the US House of representative has finally declared Burma’s targeted rapes, torture, and killing of our Rohingya brothers and sisters a genocide. All we had to do at Burma Task Force was to strategize, develop an action alert and encourage supporters to call their elected representatives. Our government has also upped its aid to the Rohingya from $30 million to $400 million. Same results were achieved in Canada where the government has declared that Rohingya face genocide and has increased its funding from $30 million dollars to a commitment of $380 million over a period of 3 years.
All we did was make calls, write letters, and contact our representatives. We donated time. And when we face Allah, it is going to be our donation of time, not just money that He will ask us about.
Anything we want to achieve we have to think, plan, and put our time and money into it. The rest is up to God.
So let us each ask whether we have prepared for tomorrow. The tomorrow that includes not just the next 24 hours, but the one that we will encounter after meeting our Creator.
“O ye who believe: Be mindful of God! Each one of you must think thoroughly what have you done for the future (morrow). Fear God: For God is well-acquainted with what you do” (Quran 59:18).