A Guide to the Confused of Our Times, by Imam Zaid Shakir
The seeming tsunami of negativity unleashed by the dastardly actions of terrorists, some claiming to act in the name of Islam, and the nefarious reactions of an assortment of bigots, racists and opportunistic politicians, have combined to create an environment that has demoralized many Muslims, terrified others, and left many confused and desperately searching for direction. This state has increased exponentially in the aftermath of the shootings in San Bernadino, California.
In light of this situation, we need to step back and remind ourselves of some fundamental Qur’anic teachings. First of all, we are told that this world is the abode of trials and tribulations (2:155; 2:214; 3:186; 21:35; 29:2-3; 67:2). This world is not our permanent home. We are passing through and we are tested along the way. If we endure the tests with unshakable faith, patience and dignity, we eventually return to our ancient, yet permanent, home –Paradise.
One of the verses referenced above asks, “Do you think that you will enter the Garden (Paradise) without there coming to you the like of that which befell those who passed away before you? Misfortune and hardship afflicted them, and they were so shaken that the Messenger [of that time] and those who believed with him cried, “When will God’s Help come ?!” Surely, God’s Help is near” (2:214). The times we are experiencing are not unprecedented in human affairs, nor are they novel for believers. There will be times when we will be shaken, however, despite the severity of the convulsion, we should never forget that God’s Help is near. With prayer and patience, we access that Help.
Oftentimes, when the Qur’an mentions the trials and tribulations we will encounter in the world, it mentions the importance of patience. As mentioned above, trials are to be borne with patience. In this case, patience has two aspects: one involves being undaunted by the verbal abuse, discrimination and other forms of mistreatment we might suffer from ignorant people; the other involves bearing the hardships that might come in persevering in doing the good things we do. Continue to be a good neighbor. Continue to be a good coworker. Continue to be the person you know you are, and do not allow the situation to lead you to doubt in yourself or to become someone who you aren’t.
In light of the ongoing anti-Muslim propaganda blitz, there will be those who might question you. “How can I trust you?” “How do I know you do not harbor ill-will towards me?” Try to understand the fearful place such comments may emanate from, but also understand that God knows who you are and He knows your innermost thoughts and motivations. If you are right with God you are right, and most people will appreciate your light. Live a life that radiates the truth you represent. Life a life defined by the love that you share and do not allow anyone to prevent you from living and loving as only you can. Be who you are, and, first and foremost, be with God.
Never despair of God’s justice. There is surely a lot that is wrong in the world, however, eventually, God will set things right; of that we can be sure. Quoting a 19th Century theologian, Theodore Parker, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would frequently say, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The suffering of so many innocents all over the world will not continue forever. Wherever they are, one day, they will be delivered from their oppressors. Live for that day. Work for that day. Pray for that day, knowing that the end of the circle is its origin and we were created to live in peace. Do not allow anyone to lead you to believe otherwise.
King would also quote William Cullen Bryant, who said, “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” Sometimes it feels like the truth of Islam –a religion that has brought people together like no other force, a religion that has played an integral role in the ongoing march of human civilization– has been crushed to earth. Distorted by its ostensible friends as well as its actual foes, that truth will rise when you stand up and give voice to it. That must not be with words of frustration, anger, hatred and victimization, but with words of encouragement, joy, love and forbearance.
End of Part One
This was first published on Imam Zaid Shakir’s blog New Islamic Directions.
Resources for Seekers:
- Paris Attacks: Response and Responsibility
- Afraid to get groceries? On being a woman in turbulent times
- “Be Unapologetically Muslim No Matter What”
- Finding Safety and Solace in the Sunnah
- “Our hearts are with all who are suffering in California”
- What Is the Meaning of the Hadith “Ruined Are the Extremists”?
- ISIS, Sex Slaves and Islam – reflections from Imam Zaid Shakir
- Helping our children find the light in dark times
- The threat to religious guidance
- “Peace is always in the middle, never at the extremes”
- Fatwa Against Terrorism and the Targeting Of Civilians
- Khawarij Ideology, ISIS Savagery
- Humanity before Religiosity
- On War & Beheading: How ISIS Manipulates Hadiths
- This is not the path to paradise, advice from Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah
- Injustice Cannot Defeat Injustice
- On the mass murder of Coptic Christians by ISIS
- Islam vs. ISIS: A Letter to Baghdadi from Leading Scholars
- Clarity in Crisis: How Believers Look at Trials and How they Respond, Guided by Prophetic Light
- Striking Necks: It Must Be the Kharijites!
- Anger, Restraint, Wisdom and the Prophetic Message in Our Times
- Explaining the Chapel Hill shooting to children
- Six Reasons Why the Fort Hood Killings by Nidal Hasan Are Clearly Impermissible (Haram) in Islamic Law
- Help Us End Extremism and “Ugly Islam”