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Labor Day weekend for many Muslims in America was spent at the ISNA convention in Houston, TX. This year's theme was, "What's your superpower for social good?" . Topics ranged from simple storytelling of our predecessors to interactive sessions on exploring your strengths and your meaningful purpose on this Earth.
Though I didn't take a notebook with me this year, I did make a note of reflections and reminders I had while I was there.
Here are my Top 10 Reflections:
Often we underestimate or are simply unaware of the struggle of our predecessors. Whether it is those Muslims in America who lay the foundation for the community that can enjoy such a large scale convention today, or simply in our families. There is much to be learned from the struggles of those who came before us. The importance of stories is emphasized in the Quran:"Indeed in their stories, there is a lesson for men of understanding." (Quran 12:111)
Though Allah is referring to the stories mentioned in the Quran, the idea that stories carry lessons is one that applies.
We tend to complain more than we rectify. If we don't like something, we allow the negativity of that experience to dictate how we feel and fail to turn it into something positive or beneficial. Find ways to change situations that are unpleasant. A good word, a kind act, a gentle suggestion can go further than simply complaining.
There was a member of the Prophet (saw)'s inner circle by the name of Nu'ayman Ibn Amr who struggled with alcoholism. Yet he was not shunned from the masjid. He was always welcome. As a community and as individuals we need to ask ourselves if we are judging others for their struggles and thus becoming less welcoming to them. Allah is the Judge. We are all here on this Earth for a test. Let's not forget that.
In times of difficulty remind yourself truly how much Allah loves you. Think about that and value and cherish that love. How do we treat the ones we love? Put your love for Him front and center of your actions.
Allah created us all with different strengths. What are we doing with those qualities for good? Allah has blessed us all with something. Whether it is tangible or intangible, how are we using the blessings we have been given to benefit others? Whether time, money, or a skill, at the end of the day they are 'advantages' we have because Allah deemed it so. But they are our tests. How we use them is ultimately the case we are making for Allah.
Hassan Ibn Thabit, was one of the companions of the Prophet (saw) and he was a poet. We have this perception that pursuing the arts is unislamic or limited, but it is just another avenue that can be used to channel good, channel change and a meaningful purpose.
Spending the majority of our time behind a screen really dampens our ability to connect with Allah. Though we may be engaging in acts of worship, we often are doing so with a very distracted mindset that has been exacerbated by our culture to fidget with our phones.
Set a specific duration and time of day to use your phone for recreational purposes. The impact of reduced attention spans and this fidgety culture really takes away from our ability to seek that balance in our lives that is essential for our own success.
If we understand that no two humans and no two Muslims are the same we can begin to appreciate that we don't need to be the same to work together. Common ground can still be found and used to build and sustain a healthy community.
Or as the American author, Edward Hale more eloquently put:
I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
We must not be bogged down by the state of affairs of the world to simply surrender. We must not think we have no voice or no impact in our community. We must not undervalue our actions in our sphere of influence because together they can move mountains.
Take the time to make sincere dua'a. Ask Allah for guidance in fulfilling your purpose on this Earth. Ask Allah for strength and wisdom in dealing with the trials of this world. But above all, pray for those who are in sincere need of dua'a, those who cannot fathom a life of 'purpose' outside of simply surviving another day. And remember, we are blessed to be protected from such a life, but our blessings are also our test.
May Allah allow us to be agents of change in our respective spheres of influence. May He allow us to change what is within ourselves, so that our condition may change.