1. Inner transformation precedes social transformation

Inner transformation starts by returning to self and asking the critical questions: Who am I? Where, and what do I want to be? Inner transformation means blaming nobody for my shortcomings.

“Say to them: It is from yourselves.” (2:165)

“Nor do I absolve my own self.” (12:53) 

“Nay, man will be evidence against himself, even though he was to put up his excuses.” (75: 14, 15)  

Inner transformation means looking inwardly to discover myself and becoming aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Inner transformation is my responsibility that stems from the free will granted to me from Allah.

“Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change it themselves.” (13:11)

It is a continuous and creative change from the state of “being” to the state of “becoming” the best I can be. What matters here is the quality of the human being produced from this transformation and evolution. The product is new and true human beings who actualize their humanity and liberate themselves from superstition, frozen traditions and fanaticism. New and true human beings who understand their own character as created by Allah, with the capacity to be active and effective in this world, and at the same time, have the capacity to free their souls from what they have accumulated or achieved.

  1. Read your society

The task of reading and understanding the characteristics and complexities of a society is not easy. We have to discover our potentials and increase our capabilities in order to acquire a deeper understanding of the society. Sciences like sociology, psychology, anthropology, human geography, history, philosophy of history and other social sciences provide new tools for such a complex endeavor. This task is the engagement of a witness, who should be present in society: physically, mentally and emotionally,

“We have truly sent you as a witness, as a bringer of glad tidings, and as a Warner.” (48:8)

ً“That you might be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves.” (2:143)

The objective of this engagement is to discover where the society stands in the currents of history, and understand the social realities, ideas and institutions. This level of engagement will enable us to identify the social problems and bring them to the consciousness of the people. The next step is to change the social problem into a specific social issue. To say that there is a problem in Cook County regarding mental health is not enough. But when we ask the question: What are the resources available for patients who suffer from mental illnesses; and how can access to these resources be facilitated? The mobilization of the community for help becomes easier.

  1. Connect with “the people”

Our target is the people or the masses. The emphasis on “the people” in Quran is very explicit. In contrast with “the elite,” they have no interests or special agendas. We have to adopt and own their problems and behave as their advocates,

“We gave a light whereby he can walk amongst men.” (6:122)

“You are the best of peoples evolved for mankind.” (3:110)

In order to make the masses aware of the social facts, we have to use their language during communication. It is a public language that they understand and resonates in their minds, and not the language of the professional or the propaganda of special interest groups. To master the language of the people is to understand their needs and concerns. Therefore, when we speak we are truly speaking on their behalf and expressing what is inside them.

“We sent not a messenger except in the language of his people.” (14:4)

Moses was the one who spoke in the palace of the Pharaoh because he was familiar with the protocols of the palace and the language of its inhabitants. Aaron, on the other hand, who spoke the language and the accent of the children of Israel, was an essential asset for the mission of Moses

“And my brother Aaron- he is more eloquent in speech than I: so send him with me as a helper.”

Adding a new language to your own is a good idea and it is never late. Speaking the language of the people enables us to work closely with them in order to discover the root causes of stagnation or receding in reference to their ideals and principles, then work with them to find the right solutions.

Shortcuts and premature actions are to be avoided. Every action should run its own natural course and any attempt to hasten the results may jeopardize such action and lead to catastrophes.

  1. Present clear vision needed for social transformation

We need to bring a clear vision to people. Prophets were successful in introducing their message to the masses, defining their objective and the way to achieve that objective. In other words, they gave them the address and the directions. Our mission should not be different. If affordable housing in Cook County is my objective, I have to state it clearly and work with others and put the right steps to achieve that objective.

Changing the status quo of society is not achieved by going back in history but by understanding the movement and the continuation of history. Any attempt to move the masses into the currents of history without such understanding or vision will be futile or lead to crisis. Our real role is to make tomorrow’s history.

Conclusion

In conclusion, these tasks are the responsibility of a human being who is continuously thinking about him/herself and the society. Every one of us has the potential to be a thinker or an intellectual once he or she accepts the challenge to be transformed and lead the change needed in society. The intellectual is not measured by the amount of knowledge or the degree of intelligence. The intellectual is a human being of insight who brings the realities in society to the consciousness of the people and seizes the right moment to change the status quo.

By Walid Khayr