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Muslims insensitive to causes pursued by their NGOs?
... by Shakeel Ahmad <email@example.com>
Newspapers have been abuzz with Salman Khurshid’s emphasis on the need for the Muslim community to become self-dependent, “We need to learn a lot from the way the Blacks and the Jews improved themselves in the US.” However, the clichéd complaint continues to reverberate in our ears day in and day out that muslims are suffering because of their insensitivity towards issues, as if they would wait until eternity for a messiah to act on their behalf. When called for lending a hand to a noble cause, by an NGO, or to participate in an act of charity, or to escalate an issue to a government agency, to help our neighbors, to keep the bylanes in front of our own houses or masajid clean, we hear that no one has any time or will. Well, we are told that, in parties or in tea-shops, they do get time to talk incessantly on issues as if they know them inside out; however their talks remain mere tools to win arguments or to prove their intellectual superiority over other participants. Their debates, emotional or rational, hardly ever translate into actions that could help the community rise in stature. Are they really so insensitive, or is something missing in the call of the NGOs? To get an answer, let us try to explore why people volunteer where they do, why they readily contribute their valuable time and hard-earned money to Missionaries of Charity, for example, or to Wikipedia and Linux.
Are people still using the encyclopedia that famously decorated the shelves of educated homes, some of them as a symbol of status while most others for genuine necessity? Why Wikipedia left its competitors way behind in competition needs to be dealt with separately. Who developed Wikipedia? Who continues to add content to it or improve the existing content? Which company? Which individual(s)?
This is how Wikipedia describes itself:
● Wikipedia is written, edited, maintained, and almost completely operated by volunteers from around the world.
● Wikipedia is free and without advertisements. It is operated by a private non-profit foundation, supported by hundreds of thousands of individual donors.
Wikipedia is written collaboratively by largely anonymous Internet volunteers who write without pay. Anyone with Internet access can write and make changes to Wikipedia articles (except in certain cases where editing is restricted to prevent disruption or vandalism). Users can contribute anonymously, under a pseudonym, or with their real identity, if they choose.
There are more than 85,000 active contributors working on more than 21 million articles in more than 280 languages. As of today, there are 3.94 million articles in English. Every day, hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world collectively make tens of thousands of edits and create thousands of new articles to augment the knowledge held by the Wikipedia encyclopedia.
One may wonder why more than 85,000 intellectuals from all walks of life actively contribute their time for free to Wikipedia, whereas Muslim NGOs looking for volunteers lament the attitude of people in today’s society that “they are not ready to spare their time for any social or charity work”. How come the will of Muslim community does not converge to the will of Allah Who exhorts them throughout Quran to indulge in good deeds as if in a race!
Is something wrong with the community members or are the Muslim NGOs to blame?
In The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Eric Steven Raymond cites from the autobiography of the 19th-century Russian anarchist Pyotr Alexeyvich Kropotkin’s Memoirs of a Revolutionist:
Having been brought up in a serf-owner’s family, I entered active life, like all young men of my time, with a great deal of confidence in the necessity of commanding, ordering, scolding, punishing and the like. But when, at an early stage, I had to manage serious enterprises and to deal with [free] men, and when each mistake would lead at once to heavy consequences, I began to appreciate the difference between acting on the principle of command and discipline and acting on the principle of common understanding.
The former works admirably in a military parade, but it is worth nothing where real life is concerned, and the aim can be achieved only through the severe effort of many converging wills. [as]
Raymond says that the “severe effort of many converging wills” is precisely what a project like Linux requires – and the “principle of command” is effectively impossible to apply among volunteers in the anarchist’s paradise we call the Internet.
For Muslims, Quran is the basis for the all-important principle of common understanding, the Prophet’s life history a far better example of volunteerism than Wkipedia or Linux. Still, why do Muslim NGOs fail to get volunteers? A closer look at the factors that may keep people away from a serious NGO initiative brings us to the realization that “principle of command” may be the biggest impediment. It is easy to pass the buck and blame the people for lack of volunteerism, but should we not consider that as seeking refuge in excuses? Coming to excuses, we do find thousands of excuses even when asked to do a simple useful thing. Why is it that our will does not converge with our wisdom (knowing well, this is useful and must be done)? Instead of taking shelter under those excuses, if we leave our ego behind, relinquish control and command over the willing volunteers, we might easily pool talents that help bring about a paradigm shift in the culture of NGOs engaged in socio-economic, educational, or charity work. Talents bloom in an environment which is conducive to experimentation, transforming what comes to mind into concrete plans before the ideas get crushed under tall command structures, chained by the inflexible complicated clauses of statutes and constitutions, or simply fizzle out. If we tie the hands of talented volunteers so as to exercise unnecessary checks, even the best of ideas might not get transformed into feasible projects, and even the best of projects may remain stuck onto the drawing boards, or in red-tapes. As long as NGOs continue to suck talents into their own tar-pits of ego, false pride, selfish lust and greed, can they attract the culture of volunteerism to prosper? And, without bringing about a revolution in Muslim volunteerism, can we expect a succor for the community? We would need to bring about a paradigm shift from the prevalent organizational mindset to the paradigm of open-source wherein “free” is the most important guiding value.
too wanna be a TRADER; not a TRAITOR...
--- Umar Shariff [www.discoverislam.co.in], firstname.lastname@example.org
In today's times Alhamdulillaah, we find many good Scholars and Orators on Islam. We also find many daa'ees working to spread the message across to their neighbours and friends. That's a good sign; but then, that's not the only way to spread the truth of Islam. There's a very old saying "Actions speak louder than Words"; I truly believe in it. It is our actions that can win the hearts of those around us.
In the earlier generations of the Muslim Ummah, the Muslims, the Sahaabaa (Prophet's Companions) travelled far and wide across the globe to spread the truth of Islam. In the process, many entered the neighbouring lands as merchants and traders. The Muslim traders were known for their truthfulness and integrity. They didn't cheat in business, nor did they misappropriate the goods during transactions. This was the highlight for the onlookers to guage the veracity of the followers of the religion Islam, which led many embrace Islam, after their interactions with the muslim traders.
Note: "Impressed by the honesty and integrity of these merchants, a large number of Malays accepted Islam". (Source: http://historyofislam.com/)
But, today, most of the Muslims are religious in certain areas where it involves certain rituals; but when it comes to business, they don't really hold to the values set in Islam. In today's times, many Muslims prove to be frauds in the business transactions. This is something which is foretold by our Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu 'alaihi wasallam.
Prophet's companion Hudhaifa radhiyallahu 'anhu narrated that:
Allah's Apostle related to us two prophetic narrations; one of which I have seen fulfilled, and I am waiting for the fulfilment of the other. The Prophet told us that the virtue of honesty descended in the roots of men's hearts (from Allah) and then they learned it from the Qur'an and then they learned it from the Sunna (the Prophet's traditions). The Prophet further told us how that honesty will be taken away: He said: "Man will go to sleep during which honesty will be taken away from his heart and only its trace will remain in his heart like the trace of a dark spot; then man will go to sleep, during which honesty will decrease further still, so that its trace will resemble the trace of blister as when an ember is dropped on one's foot which would make it swell, and one would see it swollen but there would be nothing inside. People would be carrying out their trade, but hardly will there be a trustworthy person. It will be said, 'in such-and-such tribe there is an honest man,' and later it will be said about some man, 'What a wise, polite and strong man he is!' Though he will not have faith equal even to a mustard seed in his heart." No doubt, there came upon me a time when I did not mind dealing (bargaining) with anyone of you, for if he was a Muslim his Islam would compel him to pay me what is due to me, and if he was a Christian, the Muslim official would compel him to pay me what is due to me, but today I do not deal except with such-and-such person. (Bukhari, 9-88, # 208)
Allah would honour the truthful traders on the day of Judgement. The Prophet said that a righteous business man will be resurrected along with the Prophets. He said that "an honest and trustworthy merchant will be with the martyrs on the Day of Resurrection." (Ibn Majah and al-Hakim, who classified it as "sound.")
In another statement he said that "an honest and trustworthy merchant will be with the prophets, the truthful, and the martyrs." (Al-Hakim and al-Tirmidhi, with good transmitters.)
The status of the truthful traders are such that they would be in the company of the Prophets. That's a great motivation to be a trader!
For many, it is easy to sport the beards and wear the skull caps in the Market; but when it comes to speaking truth in business, to them it is harder than performing Hajj. There are men amongst us, whom we cannot trust in business. If when entrusted with certain responsibilities, you'll find them embezzling and betraying you, when it matters the most to you. How can a community prosper, when the members of the community cheat one another in their daily dealings!
The Prophet said, "He who cheats, is not one of us". Once the Prophet passed by a pile of food and put his hand into it, and his fingers touched something wet. He said, “What is this, O seller of the food?” The man said, “It got rained on, O Messenger of Allaah.” He said, “Why did you not put it (the wet part) on top of the pile so that the people could see it? He who deceives does not belong to me.” According to other reports, “He who deceives us is not one of us,” or, “He is not one of us who deceives us.” (Muslim).
Allah says in the Qur'an,
Woe to Al Mutaffifoon (those who give less in measure and weight). Those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, demand full measure, And when they have to give by measure or weight to (other) men, give less than due. [al-Mutaffifeen 83:1]
It's time to remember a time when Allah destroyed a people of a land when it's people were engaged in cheating in business. Prophet Shu'aib preached to the people of Madyan, to be just in business dealings. But they were persistent in cheating; hence Allah destroyed them.
Allah says in the Qur'an
And to [the people of] Madyan [We sent] their brother Shu‘aib. He said, "O my people, worship Allah; you have no deity other than Him. There has come to you clear evidence from your Lord. So fulfill the measure and weight and do not deprive people of their due and cause not corruption upon the earth after its reformation. That is better for you, if you should be believers. (Qur'an 7:85)
"So the earthquake seized them, and they became within their home [corpses] fallen prone".
"Those who denied Shu‘aib - it was as though they had never resided there. Those who denied Shu'aib - it was they who were the losers".
And he (Shua'ib) turned away from them and said, "O my people, I had certainly conveyed to you the messages of my Lord and advised you, so how could I grieve for a disbelieving people?" (Qur'an 91-93)
It's time to ponder deeply over the above verses of the Qur'an. Allah is swift in taking retribution. Allah will surely punish those who cheat people in business. May Allah help us to become good traders; not traitors.