The recent release of data by Statistics Canada and its press coverage about the growth of Canada’s Muslim population has caught Muslims’ attention and many Muslims have been made to think about the disparity of effectiveness between them and other minority groups.
Although many other minorities are fewer in number, their influence, power, visibility, and status in Canadian society by far exceeds that of Muslims. In fact, Muslims are the most ineffective, least influential, and most vilified group among all minorities in Canada. They bear the brunt of discrimination, prejudice, and hateful practices. But why is it that way?
Many Muslims will point out that what we face in society is due to the anti-Islam slant of the media and vilification of Muslims by extremist elements. While it is true that their propaganda has a huge negative effect, it is totally inappropriate to assume that we have no role in the problems we face, or that we are helpless to do anything about them. It is quite possible to change things in favour of equity, fairness, and proper treatment. Other communities have done it and we can do it too.
However, we must first have a deep conviction within ourselves that these changes can and must be done. Next, we need an overall strategy with goal-oriented action plans, coordinated and focused efforts, and a lot of hard work. These are the factors that differentiate between communities that are effective and influential, and those which are not.
Let us look into each factor separately.
First, people who feel helpless cannot command respect The key difference between the people who are effective and those who are ineffective is the level of their conviction and dedication.
Ineffective people blame others (often rightly) for the problems they are facing, but they rarely do anything meaningful about it. Their rationale is: “Because our problems are caused by other people, we cannot do anything about them. It is those other people who need to do something.” Hence, they brood over injustices, feeling bitter and becoming frustrated. When their brooding does not produce any results, which is natural, they feel helpless and defeated. These feelings of helplessness and defeat are very dangerous and counterproductive for a community.
Secondly, effective people have a firm, deep conviction that things can change and that they themselves must dedicate their time, energies and resources to create that change. Effective people refuse to accept the status quo. They work hard to achieve change, regardless of the circumstances or the problems faced. They do not give up their struggle, accept defeat, or allow themselves to feel helpless. If one strategy does not work, they try another until they find one that works.
Imagine two teams competing in a match. Can a team that already feels defeated have any chance of winning? The moment a person says, “I am helpless,” he or she is like the team that gives in to feelings of defeat before or during a game. Similarly, blaming others for our problems is like blaming the other team for playing well.
Even a defeated team can win in future if it works to improve its game, practices hard, and focuses on the areas where it is weaker than other teams. A team that accepts defeat as inevitable will neither play well, nor win. Only a team that goes into the game with a zeal to win and works hard for that purpose achieves victory. Hence, those Muslims who feel helpless and discourage others with their pessimism are their own worst enemies. Those Muslims who want the Ummah to have its due respect and status in society must be convinced that it is feasible and be dedicated to making it happen.
True Muslims have a firm conviction that they will always succeed. They never feel pessimistic, hopeless, or helpless. Pessimism, helplessness, and feelings of helplessness are signs of an absence of faith.
Despair not of relief from Allah. Indeed, no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people. (Yoosuf 12:87)
And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord except the misguided. (Al-Hijr 15:56)
A Muslim knows that as long as he or she is doing the right things, Allah’s help will come. They have full trust in Allah that Allah will not let their efforts go in vain. This is called ‘Tawakkul’. Some people think that Tawakkul consists of just sitting like monks and doing nothing, hoping Allah will do something. But that meaning is from Shaytaan (the Devil) to make Muslims inactive and indolent. True Tawakkul is such a strong conviction of Allah’s help and mercy being with you in your Islamic struggle that no problem in the world is able to dampen your spirit or make you feel defeated and helpless. That is why Tawakkul is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an along with perseverance (Sabr), tenacity, and resolve (‘Azm).
Even if no success in this world seems to materialize, a Muslim knows that he or she is still a winner in the eyes of Allah SWT:
The Messenger of Allah said, “How wonderful it is for a believer that he always ends up with goodness: If he suffers and remains steadfast, it is rewarding; if good things happen and he thanks Allah, that is also rewarding.” (Suhaih Muslim)
As a community, Allah SWT tells us: So do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are (true) believers. (Aali-‘Imraan 3:139)
So despite the current circumstances, you cannot fail if you refuse to accept the status quo and you dedicate adequate time, energy and resources for Islam and the Ummah, having full faith in Allah SWT. If you do your part, you will get your fair share of success and effectiveness.
Ayub A. Hamid is a national director and treasurer of of the Canadian Islamic Congress.