Recently, a group of volunteers gathered at SeekersHub Toronto for a strategy meeting. At the end of the gathering, I shared the following seven counsels on successful service and activism:
One: Renew Your Intention Regularly
The first point is that it is always important to renew one’s intention. What are we trying to do? We’re seeking Allah through serving His Creation.
This is, in reality, entailed by our faith (iman) itself. The Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) said, “None of you believes until they wish for others what they wish for themselves.” [Bukhari and Muslim] He also said (peace and blessings be upon him), “None of you believes until they wish for others of the good what they wish for themselves.” [Nasa’i]
A basic expression of gratitude to Allah Most High–for the gifts of faith, and guidance, and good–is that one wishes those things for others. But wishing it for others is not simply saying: “Well, I hope others get it, too.” Rather, the proof of wishing it for others is how one actively tries to convey the good to them.
We have to keep renewing this intention of service—reminding ourselves that our service, activism, and effort is about seeking the pleasure of Allah Most High, in ways pleasing to Him.
Two: Be With The Group
Second, know that the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) emphasized the strength and need of the group. He said (peace and blessings be upon him), “Hold fast to the group and beware of going it alone. Verily, the Shaytan is close to the one alone and is more distant from two. Whoever seeks the highest of Paradise, let them be with the group.” [Tirmidhi]
Why? Being with the group—community and collective effort — has many benefits. One benefit is that collective effort is more impactful than individual effort.
Being alone results in harms, and disconnection cuts us off from sources of benefit—for ourselves and for others. Be connected through your service to community, and help others connect—so that you benefit and facilitate benefit for others.
We should always remember the need for that group—of community, of working together — and also reaching out and helping other people connect. This is integral to any work we do.
The Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) said, “The group is mercy, and parting from it is torment.” [Ahmad and Tabarani, Awsat]
You will have seen that in your own social and family circles, those who disconnect and distance themselves from community get distanced from benefit—and those who remain connected grow and increase.
Three: Uphold a Collaborative Spirit
The third is to keep in mind the spirit of collaboration (ta’awun) with others—both in our own projects and organizations, and also with others’ projects and organizations. Seek and assist in the good, in others’ efforts and in others’ projects, as if they were your own.
Allah Most High commands: “Assist one another in all that is good and virtuous.” [Qur’an, 5.2]
Thus, anytime you hear of any good that others are engaged in—whether in our own group or circles, or outside of them—ask yourself: “Can I help out?” Help others; encourage them; encourage others to help them; promote their efforts…
For example, let’s say our Academy team sends out an email saying asking for feedback on their plans. This spirit would mean taking two minutes to comment and share your thoughts.
This collaborative spirit is also tested by how we view other groups and organizations—and our attitude towards them.
A foundational part of our ethos—of the Prophetic spirit and concern — is that we should not see “others” involved in similar projects as “competition,” in any negative or defensive way.
Rather, we should view them as our partners in calling to Allah (Most High), as partners in the good we’re trying to promote. We should want success for them as we want and pray for success for ourselves
We should promote their projects, programs, and events, as we would promote our own—without any hesitation, defensiveness, or negative attitudes.
We shouldn’t wait for others to ask before we promote their events. We should be proactive in doing so—and doing so is a test of sincerity, trueness, and of having Prophetic attitude and concern.
Four: Seek Allah’s Helping Through Help Others</>
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) promised that, “Allah is in the aid of His servant as long as they are in the aid of others.” [Muslim and Tirmidhi] This promise applies to both individuals and groups.
Have complete certainty with respect to this promise: when we help others and promote their projects—seeking Allah Most High thereby—we will find Divine Assistance and Divine Aid in our lives and our projects. Our attitude of collaboration should be a value we uphold for Allah, as a Prophetic way—without hesitation nor ulterior considerations. And it shouldn’t be conditional on others’ reciprocation.
To deeply root such collaboration, we should strive to establish formal relationships of mutual collaboration—and define the processes of making collaboration happen. But even without such relationships, we should uphold a collaborative spirit. More than this, we should promote others’ efforts even if they don’t and won’t promote our efforts and projects. Our actions aren’t for them—they should be for Allah.
There are a lot of good things happening in the community, and having a collaborative attitude actually helps you learn from others’ successful efforts. You will notice the things they’re doing well, it will help you in improving your individual and collective efforts.
Five: Ask From Allah Most High—Knowing that Success is from Him, not from your efforts
Remember that service is about seeking Allah—by Allah. In the Fatiha we affirm, “It is You alone we serve; and it is You alone that we rely upon.” [Qur’an, 1.4] The most powerful means for success in service is to seek assistance from Allah Most High.
How do we seek Allah’s assistance? Make dua before all that you do. Make dua for Allah’s assistance specifically for your efforts and projects of service after prayer, at night in night worship, whenever you work and plan.
Habib Kadhim said that 80% of true success is asking Allah. Our effort is necessary, but it is adab with the Divine. The Giver is Allah Himself.
This is a spiritual commitment for spiritually-meaningful and transformative activism: make dua for all the projects you’re involved in; make dua for others’ projects; make dua for those you are working with, individually and by name, and for others who are striving for the good.
Six: Strive To Embody What You Call Others To
Always reflect: “Am I striving to uphold what I am calling others to?” This shouldn’t hold you back if you find shortcomings in your own character and conduct. Rather, it should instill a renewed resolve to call yourself to Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), and to all good we’re calling others to.
The masters of the spiritual path would say, “Call yourself to Allah just as you call others to Allah.” Service (khidma) is both an honour and opportunity as well as a responsibility, trust, and test.
One aspect of this in our work is that everyone should strive to attend least one class a week. Calling others to seek beneficial knowledge is a communal obligation—but also a personal duty we shouldn’t neglect.
If we don’t strive to do this, it could be from the Divine Warning, “Believers, why do you say that which you don’t do?” [Qur’an, 61.2] This is a reminder to call oneself just as one calls others—and to begin with oneself, for blessed calling.
Seven: Call To Benefit Without Hesitation
Don’t be shy about sharing benefit within your own circles. Sometimes the ‘there-are-other-people-taking-care-of-it’ attitude affects us. Or we feel shy to tell people—fearing being labelled or fearing negative perceptions.
Instead, anything good worth pursuing is worth promoting and sharing. This applies to the Hub’s programs, as well as others’ programs.
Whenever there is a program, new class, or project, strive to share the email or social media messages—and directly tell friends and family about it. People follow people more than they follow distant promotional messages.
May Allah Most High make us of those whom He praises: “Who is better in statement than one who calls to Allah, does righteous deeds, and affirms that ‘I am truly of those who submit’.” [Qur’an, 41.33]
And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.