Jabir bin Abdullah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: “Every good is charity. Indeed among the good is to meet your brother with a smiling face, and to pour what is left in your bucket into the vessel of your brother.” [Tirmidhi]
Good conduct and noble character are the most valued qualities in any society. As Muslims, our actions and the way we behave towards others reflects not only us as individuals but also represents Islam. Within our deen, generally speaking, there are two types of people: those who can live with the minimal expectations, for example, they stay away from haram and major sins and fulfill what is required of them. Then, there are those who take any chance to benefit another person, spreading the message and the beauty of Islam, going that extra mile.
There is nothing wrong with what the former individual does. However if we think of this life as a test and when the time arrives for us to meet our Creator, do we wish to be of those who “just got by” or of those who sacrificed a great deal for Allah to achieve abundant rewards and be of those who are beloved to Him on the day of resurrection? Building upon and implementing this exemplary character to benefit the community around us and become a valued member of society is what this article will discuss.
First, let’s step back and examine the attitudes we have towards our community. Here’s what you need to stop doing before you can be a productive member of your community:
1. Stop Complaining
There are many “complainers” among the Ummah. They are quick to utter words of disapproval and discontent or sometimes tarnish the reputation of others but slow to act upon their own advice. Instead of complaining, we, as Muslims, should work towards building good akhlaq (moral and mannerisms) so that we can benefit others in this life as well as ourselves in the Akhirah (Hereafter). If you see something wrong taking place whether that be in the community or your own circle of family/friends, then take active steps to rectify it, if something is missing within the community – fill the gap, be the change. Do not complain to the creation, instead call out to the Creator.
2. Stop Making Excuses
Let’s take a scenario: If your family is in great distress – Allah forbid – you would rush to their saviour. Then why is it when we see our brothers and sisters in Islam suffering, all of a sudden “there isn’t enough money in the bank” or “I would love to help, but I have so many things to do and no time”, or we try to make ourselves feel better by saying “I’m sure someone else will help”? This, my brothers and sisters, are the whispers of Shaytaan, the cursed one.
What happened to the unity? As narrated An-Nu`man bin Bashir, Allah’s Messenger said, “You see the believers as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind, resembling one body, so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness (insomnia) and fever with it.” [Bukhari]
Knowing this, how can anyone make excuses? Are you honestly telling me you’ve exhausted ALL avenues possible to help the orphan who cries himself to sleep while motherless; the widow who is forced to choose which child she will feed to survive today; your brother in Islam who is sleeping alone on a bench in the park just around the corner on a cold night, while you are with your family in a warm home? We could all do more; we need to do more.
3. Stop Looking Down on Others
And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace, [Qur'an: Chapter 25, Verse 63]
No matter what race, ethnicity, age, gender and even faith someone is from, do not think of him/her as inferior. If we begin to think, even for a moment, that we are better than someone else, then nothing we do in the way of Allah counts because that’s shirk. Don’t ever think you are better than the people you are trying to serve. Your friend may be a an atheist today and you think “At least I’m not an atheist, I’m better than him”. But tomorrow when he takes his shahadah and all his sins are wiped away, in front of Allah , he is better than you – we must have humility.
4. Stop Expecting Praise/Appreciation from Other People
Your real job is to serve Allah. When you truly complete this job, you get the benefits. Too many Muslims want the benefits but don’t want to do the job – Nouman Ali Khan
Allah knows what is hidden in our hearts. No matter what we do – donating some money, volunteering for a charity, helping a sister/brother in need, treating others with kindness – we should do it purely for the sake of Allah . If, at any point in time, our heart fills with other motives, then the reward of that act will be wasted. Don’t expect people to acknowledge your “achievements”. Know that the One above, the Lord of all that exists, is witness to your efforts and your reward will be in the Hereafter, In sha Allah.
5. Stop Being Arrogant
Arrogance is one of the characteristics of shaytan. Whoever has an ounce of arrogance should realise the enormity of it as this is a trait of the shaytan. If you’re helping a cause or someone within the community, don’t think your role ends once that task is done and you’ve “done your bit”. We were chosen by Allah to be HIS servants, to serve Him. As long as we live, until our very last breath, no amount of “good deeds” are ever enough – we must strive to continually help our Muslim brothers and sisters. We, as his slaves, need to put in every ounce of what we have for His sake. If you had a court case to attend to or an exam, you’d turn up hours early and perhaps would not even sleep the night before. Have THAT kind of dedication for Allah .
Now that we have discussed the attitudes that need to be eradicated, let’s discuss what you need to start doing to be a productive member of your community:
1. Start Renewing Your Intentions
Often, when an individual performs a few good deeds, shaytan will try to intervene and cast doubtful thoughts into his heart. “Make sure they know you made that enormous donation, after all you deserve respect look at all that money you’ve given”. “You’d better tell them how many months of your time you have given to help them, I mean if it wasn’t for you all this wouldn’t have been possible”. “Make sure that brother knows you did him a favour by lending him that money”.
Know this: if you weren’t here, Allah would have made a means to help that person or charity in need, one way or another. Allah does not and will never need you. Rather, YOU need Him. So don’t ever act as if you’re doing someone a favour. Keep your intentions pure. Remind yourself that if you start thinking of yourself as a “big shot”, then all that work you’ve done will amount to nothing because you didn’t do it for Allah , you did it for yourself – to prove to others how “good” you are.
Here you are – those invited to spend in the cause of Allah – but among you are those who withhold [out of greed]. And whoever withholds only withholds [benefit] from himself; and Allah is the Free of need, while you are the needy. And if you turn away, He will replace you with another people; then they will not be the likes of you. [Qur'an: Chapter 47, Verse 38]
2. Start to Exemplify the Behaviour You Wish to See in Your Community
Most of us are overwhelmed with many obligations such as our work, family and children. However, instead of living in our own little bubble, we should put aside some time and energy into helping others. We know what it means to go above and beyond what we consider our simple duty. It is our Muslim obligation to be good towards our neighbours, for instance. But we should go further and knock on our neighbour’s door every few days to ensure they are well and if they have a need we may be able to help out with – this is the face of Islam that we want the world to see.
Islam teaches us to love for others what we love for ourselves. It’s the small things that make the biggest difference. Take some time out to volunteer for community services at the local masjid or school. Clean up the neighbourhood, visit a sick person, bake your neighbour a cake or donate toys to local hospitals to cheer children up. Even a simple smile or a listening ear may mean the world to someone who’s experiencing hardships. “Meet the people in such a manner that if you die, they should weep for you, and if you live, they should long for you” – Ali Ibn Abi Talib
3. Start to Help Your Family
Every one has something to contribute to Allah’s deen, we ALL do. You don’t have to be an ulema or a da’ee to serve. Are there people in your family who are not doing the right things or dealing unfairly with money? Is there a dispute within your family or between individuals who have not spoken for years or even across generations due to a “grudge”? Seek to help resolve these problems as forgiveness brings families and communities together. Speak up, if not you, then who?
Offer to help those you love. Cook for your spouse, help your mother with the housework, take your siblings to Islamic conferences or lectures, among many other things – these small gestures go a long way. The Prophet said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously; and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should unite the bond of kinship (i.e. keep good relation with his Kith and kin); and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should talk what is good or keep quiet. ” [Bukhari]
4. Start Volunteering for a Good Cause
There is always a need for help somewhere. So go to your local charity shop and I’m almost certain your offer to help would be met with delight. Your time doesn’t necessarily need to be given to a Muslim charity – charities or groups that help sufferers of cancer, terminal illnesses or abused women need assistance too. Pick an organisation with a worthy cause and stick to it. Use this opportunity to make the world a better place, to represent Islam in the right way. This shows that you don’t just care about yourself. You care about your neighbour. You don’t just care about the Muslims in your country, but you care about the non-Muslims too. It’s your duty to show them the beauty of Islam. You cannot call people to the religion of Allah while insulting or hating non-Muslims, you’d just be helping to verify the stereotypes of the media. Why would they want to be even look into Islam when all they see is hatred? This is OUR fault and we must rectify this.
5. Start Praying for Others
Dua is the weapon of the believer. If we have nothing to offer, the least we can do is make dua for those distressed. Take the time to pray for others – your family, your loved ones, those who are ill, those who live in fear, those struggling to find a spouse, those who go hungry, those who walk in darkness, those who have given up in life. Sincere dua can go a long way. And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided. [Qur'an: Chapter 2, Verse 186]
When we have the most just societies, best economic practices, fairest dealings, peace amongst each other, when we deal with our non-Muslim friends in the best possible way. We can give all the pamphlets, speeches and responses but that doesn’t help or mean anything. The world doesn’t want to hear about Islam, it wants to see Islam. – Nouman Ali Khan
I have discussed the main points that I feel are of importance. Look within your community and assess how you can make it better, and work towards the goal. I leave you with the following hadith to ponder over:
It was narrated that Abu Hurairah said: “The Messenger of Allah said : ‘Whoever relieves a Muslim of some worldly distress, Allah will relieve him of some of the distress of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever conceals (the faults of) a Muslim, Allah will conceal him (his faults) in this world and the Day of Resurrection. And whoever relieves the burden from a destitute person, Allah will relieve him in this world and the next. Allah will help His slave so long as His slave helps his brother.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
The buck stops with you – step up to the plate. Share your experiences or exchange tips on how we can contribute to our community in the Comments section below.
Nouman Ali Khan’s lecture: “How am I going to serve Allah”
About the Author:
A 23-year-old IT consultant by profession but a “Striving Muslimah” by heart. Currently undergoing a career change, Striving Muslimah is pursuing primary teaching with children who are less able. She is an avid baker, a self confessed geek, and a firm believer in the proverb “wherever there is a human in need, there is an opportunity for kindness and to make a difference”. She is now working to help the Syrian Bread factory project. Please follow the group’s Facebook page and help in whatever way you can.