Avoiding the Activist Burnout

Avoiding the Activist Burnout June 29, 2017


We live in interesting times.

The world at times seems to be spinning way too fast and we can often become overwhelmed with the issues, challenge, problems and injustices that are facing our world. Some of us have taken a stance to do something about the issues we see facing the world.Some of us make the mistake by trying to address every injustice, issue, and challenge that our world is facing. This not only renders us ineffective, but hurts us spiritually, mentally, psychologically and physically.

Often in our pursuit of serving the community or establishing justice in the world we may fall into the trap of thinking “If I do x,y and z things will change” or “I must do this—everything depends on me.” Yes, we are taught in our faith tradition to address evils in our world:

“Whoso- ever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.

-The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)


The problem with this mindset of thinking we are the source of victory and success is we are forgetting Allah in the equation. Often times we overburden ourselves with this impossible task of addressing every injustice in the world. Not only is it foolish, but it’s also ineffective. It’s virtually impossible to right every wrong in the world. If we consume ourselves in every injustice facing the world not only will we get depressed and discouraged, but also burned out. It makes zero sense to exhaust yourself and destroy your spiritual, mental, and physical health in the pursuit of serving the community and addressing issues facing the world. Even the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was commanded to turn back to His Lord after he was done with his work:

So when you have finished [your duties], then stand up [for worship]. And to your Lord direct [your] longing. (Quran 94:7-8)

Your body has a right upon you, your soul has a right upon you, and your family has a right upon you. Take care of the blessings Allah has given you. Neglecting any of the three isn’t giving the three their due rights as ordered by Allah.

So don’t fret if you don’t see results or are unable to impact the issues you care about. Allah told the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to relax and not destroy himself in the pursuit of guiding people and said that had He wanted he would have sent signs to make people believe:

Perhaps, [O Muhammad], you would kill yourself with grief that they will not be believers.If We willed, We could send down to them from the sky a sign for which their necks would remain humbled.And no revelation comes to them anew from the Most Merciful except that they turn away from it.For they have already denied, but there will come to them the news of that which they used to ridicule. (Quran 26:3-7)

The key is to work hard, but not to the point of destroying yourself. Serve others, but remember to serve your soul, your body and fulfill your duties to those who love you be they close family and close friends. Allah told the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to essentially take care of himself and do self-care. Often times we neglect our own spiritual, emotional, psychological and mental and physical health in our efforts to solve the problems we see in the world, but Allah reminds us in these verses to take care of ourselves.

If we truly want to be successful in our pursuit of righting the wrongs is to pace ourselves, take care of ourselvesand most importantly focus. The key to success in these difficult times is to maintain focus. Stay in your lane. Whatever it is you’re passionate about focus on it, excel at it and do it with the best quality work, intentions and effort. The companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) all specialized in their own areas, but worked towards the common good. For example, Bilal (RA) was the muadhin (the caller to prayer), Khalid ibn Waleed (RA) was the military strategist, Ali (RA) was the warrior and war expert, Abu Bakr (RA) was the state administrator and right hand man for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Omar ibn Khattab (RA) was the strong man and advisor to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Each one stuck to what they knew and provided their expertise to the cause and contributed to the common good in their own unique way.

This isn’t to say not to be passionate about different injustices or issues facing the world—no rather it’s a call to focus and to be effective in changing the world around you. It’s impossible to hug and comfort those suffering in other countries, but it’s quite possible for you to take care of your own local community that’s suffering–the poor, the needy, the homeless, the victims of domestic violence, etc. The key is to find areas and issues you can directly impact. Not only will this boost your confidence, but will ensure you’ll be more motivated to work long term on the issue you are passionate about. It also allows you to empower yourself and ensure you can see tangible changes and boost your morale for the long term.

Choose an issue you’re passionate about and excel in it and work on empowering others to be involved in he cause you’re passionate about. Too many of us exhaust ourselves and think WE will change things and victory will come from US. However, if we remember in our own history that victory only comes from Allah regardless of numbers, strength or wealth. We can literally have all of the resources available at our disposal, but without Allah we won’t be successful or victorious. The key is putting effort with sincerity and good intentions and due diligence and planning. We saw this in the defeat at the Battle of Badr where the Muslim army was severely outnumbered yet overcame and was victorious. Likewise, we must realize that victory comes from Allah alone and we should never forget Allah in the equation of solving the problems, issues and challenges our world is facing.

May Allah allow us to be beacons of hope and light in these dark times and allow us to be the means for change, but also allow us the ability to take care of our own bodies, souls and families in our pursuit of righting the wrongs in this world. Ameen.


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