By Saud Inam
Yes, we are all frustrated. We feel sorrow. We feel pain. We’ve been here before time after time. A violent act occurs in the name of Islam, and we’re expected to condemn or apologize and the same cycle of Islamophobia occurs again. We get angry, we get frustrated and have a storm of emotions when these events happen.
I’m not here to tell you to not feel any emotions. In fact it’s a good thing that we’re feeling frustration, pain, sorrow and sadness — it means our hearts are still alive and that we care for others. Having that feeling in our hearts is natural and means our hearts have mercy, compassion, and love. So alhamdullilah (praise be to Allah) for that.
However, the key is not to let that sorrow or sadness turn into hopelessness or powerlessness. Allah is with the patient and reminds us, in some of my favorite verses from the Quran:
O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient. And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not. And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided. (Quran 2:153-157)
So many emotions may be raging inside of us. How should we react? How should we process these emotions? I hope to provide some positive responses to tragedies below.
First step to solving any problem is praying. Pray for the victims, pray for the world, pray for healing and pray for strength. Pray for forgiveness and pray for guidance. Pray for contentment and peace of heart and tranquility. Pray for peace and justice. Connect with Allah and use this opportunity to connect with Him to heal your pain and help you get inner peace, strength and clarity. We may wonder at times what good is it in offering prayers. But starting with prayer can be immensely comforting and affirming.
Reflect upon the injustices of the world and the tragedies and ask yourself what is Allah teaching us in these trials and tragedies? What is it that I can do differently in my life? While there are injustices outside, we must look inward and see if we are unjust in our own circles of influences. Are we unjust to our friends, families, loved ones, colleagues, bosses or employees? Ask yourself how you can rectify your weaknesses and injustices in your own life. There is an old adage – think globally, act locally.
Set up monthly qiyyams (prayer talks) at your local masjid with themes. For example, a qiyyam for one of the months would be focused on homelessness. Have a scholar talk about homelessness from an Islamic perspective and what Islam says about how to solve it. Also, have a local activist or organization talk about how they are responding to the issue of homelessness and how people can help. This combines both the spiritual and the on-the-ground aspect of providing solutions to a problem facing our community locally and internationally.
These qiyyams would be a great way for Muslims to heal and process emotions about tragedies and events happening in their lives and in the world.
Avoid DebatesDebates usually occur after tragedies and often delve into shaming people for showing compassion to the victims of a tragedy. Yes, we understand there are other injustices and tragedies happening around the world but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t show compassion or sympathy for victims of one tragedy over another.
We must remember the Prophet (saw) stood up out of respect for a Jewish man during his funeral procession, despite the man being of a different faith than him:
Qais ibn Sa’d reported: A funeral passed by the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and he stood up. It was said to him, “It is a Jew.” The Prophet said, “Was he not a soul?” (Source: Sahih Bukhari 1250, Sahih Muslim 961)
You wouldn’t go to a friend whose father passed away and attend his or her funeral and say, “There are other people whose fathers died too. Why do you care so much about your father over other people’s fathers?”
Avoid shaming debates and debates about what happened, who to blame and who the culprits are and what conspiracy theory is more valid. Conversations about geo-political discussions are important, but not at a time of tragedy. We must ask ourselves would we be interested in geo-politics if our loved one died in a tragic murder or massacre.
Reach out to the Victims
A better way to respond to a tragedy than simple condemnations or press releases is to reach out to the effected parties or the victims. Raising money for the victims or writing a solidarity statement or letters of condolence to the victims can be a powerful way to show people what Islam is.
For far too long we’ve told people what Islam is not. Some of the best responses to tragedies recently by the Muslim community have been these three:
1. Celebrate Mercy’s Mercy Mail Campaign
2. Islamic Relief and the Michigan Muslim Community Council’s donation to Detroit.
3. LaunchGood’s campaign to support black churches that were burned down.
You can come up with your own campaign response or join the above organizations in responding to tragedies.
Hold Vigils at Your Masjid
Holding vigils are great ways to show solidarity as well with the victims of a tragedy. It is a great opportunity for speeches to be delivered and give a voice to the Muslim community. Inviting interfaith partners and organizations is also a great idea to show solidarity with people of all faiths.
Sign and Draft a Solidarity Statement
Encourage your local community members and organizations to sign a solidarity statement and send to the victims of the tragedy. This could also be circulated to media outlets and journalists.
Deliver a Khutbah (Sermon) About the Tragedy
Encourage your imam to talk about the tragedy that happened and how the community can heal, process the emotions and respond in a productive manner. Advise and brainstorm with your imam on what can be done and how to deliver a meaningful message to your community during Jummah (Friday prayers).
Saud Inam is a Muslim American activist, social entrepreneur, blogger and Project Manager for Discover Islam-USA a Muslim American media company dedicated to producing high quality media about Islam and Muslims. He is always on the lookout for more opportunities to help empower the Muslim American community.