From the time of the prophet (SAAW) until our time, people have understood that embracing Islam means that your life will change in all its details. Islam will become a way of life, and practicing Islam will come with its challenges and hardships, but at the same time it will provide a meaningful life of purpose and contentment.
It was narrated that Al-Zubair son of Adii came to Anas Ibn Malek (RAA) complaining to him about the atrocities Muslims were facing from the Umayyad military general Al-Hajjaj Al-Thaqafi. Anas (RAA) said: Practice patience for I have heard your prophet (SAAW) saying: “A time will never come unto you but that the one after shall be more challenging than the one before until you meet your Lord.”
The prophet (SAAW) described a time that practicing Islam will be so hard that he compared it to a person holding onto a burning piece of charcoal in his bare fist. The signs of such a status started even with his own companions who had to sacrifice many precious comforts of life such as wealth, as Suhaib the Roman (RAA) did, or family unity, as Jaber Ibn Abdullah (RAA) did, or safe and familiar homes, as many Sahabah did who were forced to migrate, and even physical torture and loss of life, as Bilal (RAA) and the family of Ammar, son of Yasser (RAA) went through.
In another Hadith, the prophet (SAAW) said: “The religion of Islam started as something strange and it will return as it started, blessed are (such) strangers.” Sahabah asked: Who are such people, O messenger of Allah? He (SAAW) replied: “They are those who try to reconcile matters after corruption spreads among people.”
Nowadays, practicing Muslims are witnessing a wave of challenges and hardships around them. With all the social media outlets, individuals, young or old, male or female, are growing in ego declaring every whim or fancy of what they want or what is on their mind regardless of ethics or values. Matters are now weighed by the number of views not by relativity to the truth. And with this, perceptions of life and purpose for our presence on earth is changing dramatically. Such status is causing hatred and grudges even within family relationships among siblings or spouses or parents and kids. People are becoming so self-centered, viciously defending their whims and desires regardless of the price paid in loss of a meaningful life. It gets worse as people who differ from others in color or origin or faith are demonizing each other to legitimize hatred, even promoting violence.
With the loss of ethical purpose and the overwhelming sense of ego, people are enslaved to their desires, sinking more and more into drugs, intoxicants, and dangerous behaviors that cancel their ability to have a meaningful life. Where is this happiness and fulfillment that everyone is looking for in all the wrong places? Depression, anxiety disorders, and suicide rates are at an all-time high. Intimate relationships which are meant to be pure, full of tranquility and partnership, are becoming more of a base animal desire with no sense of responsibility to establish a family or put anyone’s welfare or happiness above your own, thereby producing individuals who easily and readily cause harm to others without regret or remorse.
On the more specific scale that practicing Muslims face daily, our youth are having major identity crisis issues; laws are being customized against Muslim minorities through the guise of fighting terrorism; and even acts of violence against Muslims are on the rise all over the world.
For all that, the way to protect oneself, family, and community from such challenges and hardship must begin on an individual level. The spiritual wellbeing to seek strength and steadfastness from faith in God is a continuous journey. There is an emptiness inside everyone that can only be filled through a relationship with God. Faith in God represents the ability to rise over pain and challenges, and cope with life to produce better ways to deal with the challenges. The same way the prophet (SAAW) used to meet with his companions for spiritual uplifting, Muslims, now more than ever, should be attached to their Muslim institutions and Mosques to draw strength and support from each other.
Finally, Muslims should not be afraid to move forward and engage positively in public life to dispel the negative image of Islam and Muslims in the west. Engaging with others, being positive and respectful, and being a living example of salam is the only way to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
By Sh Kifah Mustapha