If I asked you who and what inspires you in life today I’m sure the average reader would name a number of celebrities and well known figures like Richard Branson or Bill Gates. Perhaps the average Muslim reader (yes you!) will think of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) as well as the numerous scholars of our contemporary era. As Muslims in the West, we have to appreciate the outstanding Muslim role models who are striving to be an inspiration for the rest of us to achieve a legacy for our world and our Ummah at large.
The past couple of years have taken me on a journey through meeting and learning from inspiring people, and here the word ‘inspiring’ shouldn’t be taken as a vague temporal feeling of imaan rush which, following that short period of time, leaves you no less better in actions than before (that’s just something that came into your ear and went out of the other side!). There’s no doubt the Muslim community is in dire need of leadership and guiding figures to make us reach our full potential. Whilst we complain there are few leaders – there’s no shortage of amazing people and events which have taken place in the history of Islamic civilisation.
Here I draw on the lessons I’ve learnt from travelling to global settings, meeting and working with some of these Muslims and even non-Muslims that continue to inspire me in my day to day work, whilst not forgetting the best of our examples can come from the Seerah and our pious predecessors. I hope some of this inspiration rubs off on you to do something great for the Ummah too..
1. Have Conviction in Your Cause
One of the first notable traits of inspiring figures I’ve been surrounded by over the past couple of years is that these people have true conviction in their cause; whether it is in establishing an organisation, studying to deliver knowledge or alleviating the needs of others. It has required the motto we call at ProductiveMuslim ‘have sincere intentions and work hard’. These individuals have strived, persisted, driven, challenged and fulfilled this motto in its entirety by their consistent efforts each day towards their cause.
I could name many figures here that I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with, including Sr. Nai’ma Roberts, who is an author and acclaimed editor, or the likes of Sarah Joseph. Others include our profound scholars, many of whom we may get the blessing of often seeing such as Sh. Haitham Al Haddad and Sh. Muhammad Al Shareef amongst many others you’ve probably YouTubed some point this week! What is clear about these people is their conviction in their cause. Ultimately working for the sake of Allah and this Ummah can have no better reward and requires a renewal of our conviction in whatever we do every day of our life.
2. Ready to Embrace New Terrains?
Being ready to embrace new territory is probably one of the most difficult steps to take, yet this, I’ve found has developed and made these inspiring figures who they are today. Without their willingness to go outside of their comfort zone and embracing new learning experiences to help them get better at what they are doing is a lesson for us all. In particular, I’ve watched non-existent organisations flourish into leading providers of services much needed in the Muslim community but they didn’t all do it because they had the skills, knowledge or talent already in place! Rather it was the ‘let’s dive in and swim as you learn’ moments and attitude that has shaped them into people of integrity, experience and expertise in their fields. Here I want to ask you to think about what have you been afraid of accomplishing that you couldn’t do without some learning, training and mentoring from others?
3. Be Innovative and Creative
In spring 2011, I met some noble laureates whilst in the Education Without Borders conference in Dubai. The premise of this great global platform bringing together students who want to make a difference through using knowledge of their discipline taught me that sometimes you need to be inspired by your own studies and in order to do that it takes innovation and creativity which are beyond the bounds of academia. I met ordinary students with excellent ideas and plans to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues which inspired me. One particular person I met whilst there was a man called Alain Roberts (aka Spiderman) – this man had climbed the world’s tallest building without any safety harness, and despite being called ‘crazy’ he still did it! You might wonder – what kind of inspiration did I get from him?! It was the act of him striving to reach the top of that building as we watched which was in itself an act of courage and bravery needed in ordinary folks like us.
4. Have Visionary Leadership
Many of my fellow CW lovers will vouch for the excellent work of Islamic Relief as an international NGO. It was probably back in 2009 when I fell in love with the organisation and found the figures behind this organisation, which continues to inspire me as I walk into the office every morning. Islamic Relief began with one doctor, Dr Hany El-Banna and his vision to serve the world’s most needy people. He started with a 20p donation which is now a charity that brings in millions each year.
What I really want to focus on is the visionary leadership Dr Hany and his colleagues had in setting up IR at the time, they simply wouldn’t settle for second best – they wanted to be a leading organisation and thus we can takes lessons of inspiration about thinking BIG in whatever we want to accomplish. Indeed Allah is the One Who facilitates all great outcomes. (To obtain Dr Hany’s Bio please contact me on the email provided at the end)
5. Don’t Quit Before You’ve Started!
Resilience and sheer persistence are the qualities I have come to admire most about those who have inspired me, in particular, a young person who against all odds strives to achieve their goals was a source of inspiration for me every day whilst studying at UCL. I realised through my degree discipline in Politics, that resilience and persistence led to the success of not only contemporary figures we know in world politics like Abraham Lincoln or Malcolm X, but rather our very history of Islam growing and spreading around the world required resilience to hostile forces and persistence in sharing the beautiful message of Islam which the Prophets (may peace be upon them all) had embodied. If resilience and never giving up moulded them into successful people, who are we to quit in our mission even before we’ve started?
In summary, these five qualities and traits of inspiring people I have met on my travels have exposed me to wider horizons some may say, which is why I love to venture upon new surroundings and meet people from all walks of life in this world. Yet it’s important for me to note here – we don’t really need to go far to find inspiration as often they are on our own doorstep. Making the best of directing that energy, enthusiasm and lessons from those people and events in our life will, Bithn’illah, make us productive members in this world and bearers of success in the Hereafter.
About the author:
Beeworker is an aspiring Productive Muslimah who seeks to spread goodness through her active involvement in projects that make a difference to her society. Follow her work at: http://beeworker.blogspot.com