By Saud Inam
In a world that seems to be increasingly filled with hate and pain, an act of empathy can be revolutionary. We see the many images of war, misery and pain in the news night after night. Our newspapers, magazine and even our Facebook walls are full of sad stories of police brutality, genocide, murder, war and injustice.
While it can be overwhelming to be constantly surrounded by negative news and information, we must realize that we have the ability to fight against injustice and the pain we see in the world. We may not be able to hug, help or comfort the African brother or sister, whose mother/father/son/daughter was murdered or beaten by a police officer.
We may not be able to reach out to the Syrian child, whose family has been killed, or reach out to the many poor and needy in the world. But we do have the power to show empathy.
A simple act of empathy can go a long way for many.
I remind myself first to show more empathy to our friends, family and neighbors. Everyone is facing a battle that the other doesn’t understands. Ali ibn Abi Talib (the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) said:
Do not take someone’s silence as his pride, perhaps he is busy fighting with his self.
We all have a responsibility to bring back the empathy that has been forgotten by many. We have let our egos, our lusts, desires, political and religious affiliations cloud our hearts and minds. We have seemingly lost ourselves and look at “the other” as our enemy rather than our fellow brother or sister in humanity, no matter their ethnicity, race, nationality or religious affiliation.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
Those who are merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you. (Tirmidhi)
The core essence of all religious teachings is the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. However, we’ve increasingly seen the ugly nature of recent election campaigns and politicians seeking to divide us based on religion, political affiliation, race, ethnicity and even class. It is important in these difficult and trying times for all religious communities and leaders to emphasize the Golden Rule.
We cannot let political and religious extremists divide us and create an environment of fear, distrust, division and hate of “the other.” We have seen what this hysteria has led us to in the past. Our history is replete with instances of hate and fear making Americans act in inhumane ways to their fellow human beings — from the discrimination, internment and killing of Native Americans, African Americas, the Irish, Italians, Chinese, Japanese to now Muslim Americans and other religious, racial and ethnic minorities.
Religious leaders and religious communities must not let extremists dictate the loss of our humanity. We must look within our religious texts and emphasize the core universal values of justice, equality, peace, respect, love and compassion for all. It is up to each and every religious group and religious leader to speak vocally against hatred within their own religious communities and political figures who seek to divide us.
There is no us vs. them.
Also, we must remember that while we see a world full of pain, suffering and injustice, we must ensure we are being just and showing empathy to those we love as well — most importantly our family and close friends.
We cannot call for empathy while inflicting injustice, pain and suffering upon those we love the most. Empathy starts from within and spreads to our loved ones, family, friends, neighbors, community and then the world.
We are all one human family and much look at each other as such. If we let religious and political extremists win in creating an environment of fear, hysteria, division and distrust, we will be failing in not only translating our religious beliefs into action, but also failing our nation.
Each of us has a responsibility to take care of our neighbors both near and far. If we truly want to see peace on earth we must work to establish it. Our religious texts cannot be just be academic exercises, or tenets, beliefs, values and morals stuck in ancient texts.
If we truly want to show the beauty of our faiths we must walk the talk.
Imam Jafir Al-Sadiq, a Muslim scholar who lived from 702–765 C.E. said: “If you want to know the religion of a man, do not look at how much he prays and fasts, rather look at how he treats the people.”
Thus, our religious beliefs don’t mean much if they are not transforming our lives for the better. At the core essence of all faiths is the establishment of peace with the world and the Creator. In order to counter extremism, we must hold our ground and organize just as effectively as those who seek to divide us.
We must rally together and start a revolution of empathy. We must counter hate with love. Fear with hope and injustice with justice.
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 a columnist for Altmuslim. Saud is always on the lookout for more opportunities to help empower the Muslim American community.