Whoever works righteousness — whether male or female — while he (or she) is a true believer (of Islamic Monotheism) verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. Paradise in the Hereafter). [Surat Al-Nahl, 16:97]
Living in the United States, during these unprecedented times, often makes many Muslims fearful and worried when it comes to going about their daily lives. It’s hard to recall a time in history when Muslims were not under the microscope in the United States and, considering the current administration, Islam is still consistently cast in a negative spotlight.
As a result of this unwarranted attention, you might second-guess going to a certain place in your community or have second-thoughts about attending such and such event. It’s very easy to shrink back into your homes and put your lives on hold in the face of “Trump’s America.” However, living in fear is no way to live and it is completely against what our noble Prophet Muhammad and his Companions did.
The life of Allah Almighty’s Final Messenger is an inspiring example that we can learn from today and apply it to the current Islamophobic climate in the United States. Our noble Prophet Muhammad was labeled a “mad man” when he first began proclaiming Islam to the masses, and the new converts to Islam were treated viciously. Yet through it all, life went on and the early Muslims made the most of it.
No matter which of the 50 states you find yourself living in, there are many ways that you can represent your identity as a Muslim and serve as a beacon of faithfulness in the process.
Step into Your Community
One of the biggest moves you can make as a Muslim living in the United States is to step into your community. This especially holds true if you observe Islamic rituals and traditions such as the hijab or Islamic cultural clothing. Whether you are hitting up the gym or headed to the grocery store to pick up your favorite organic veggies, go about your business looking just like the proud Muslim you are and greet everyone you pass with a friendly smile even if it is not reciprocated. Let your very best Islamic manners shine and use your own example to combat the stereotypes about Muslims that are rife in the media. Whether you are out in public or even in your home, exercising the finest conduct and Islamic etiquette is a remarkable way to ensure that your Islam sets a tone for others to emulate.
Engage in Acts of Kindness and Good Deeds
You’ve most likely lived in your community long enough to notice the friends and neighbors in your area that are experiencing some challenges. For example, the elderly lady living right next door that you always see walking to the store on hot days because she does not own a car. Or how about the disabled man in a wheelchair who has a service dog he struggles to take out for “walks”? When you open your eyes to those around you, it’s easy to see where you can lend a helping hand. Keep in mind that if the person you are trying to help is non-Muslim who is not receptive to you, then, leave the matter alone. However, if you see someone who is in need of something you can do for them, then do your utmost to help even if it means you have to sacrifice a bit of your time in the process to walk a neighbor’s dog or take someone to the grocery store.
And remember what Prophet Muhammad said:
Hasten to do good deeds before there come tribulations like pieces of a dark night, when a man will be a believer in the morning and a kafir by evening, or he will be a believer in the evening and a kafir by morning, selling his religious commitment for worldly gain. (Muslim)
Organizational Work & Volunteerism
There are many organizations that have regular opportunities for you to volunteer each month. Habitat for Humanity—a non-profit housing organization that builds homes for the needy—holds regular meet-ups where volunteers team up to construct dwelling places. You can easily sign-up online and even ask some of your Muslim friends to do the same! The American Red Cross is another way that you can give back to your community through a blood donation—which can save up to 3 lives! Organize a blood drive in your community or even go to your local chapter and donate on your own. You can find additional opportunities to volunteer your time in your community by joining a Facebook group for volunteer work in your city.
Attach Yourself to the Mosque
Your local mosque may be an excellent resource for engaging in community service and volunteering for beneficial causes. Many mosques in the United States are committed to community service and usually offer a monthly calendar that is full of activities revolving around acts of worship, as well as volunteer opportunities for a variety of projects. If your local mosque does not have available many opportunities for volunteerism, then perhaps you can approach the Imam and look for ways that you can help develop some to benefit both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Reach out to Muslim community leaders so as to bring them together on projects and to see them coordinated to fruition.
One of the unexpected, and quite delightful, side-effects of Donald Trump’s disdain and Islamophobic policies is that more non-Muslims are standing up for Muslim rights in the United States than ever before. When the ‘Muslim Travel Ban’ rolled out, for example, there were vast seas of support from the non-Muslim communities in each of the cities in which protests were held. This is a golden opportunity for Muslims from all walks of life to reach out to non-Muslims for interfaith dialogue. There are many ways to do this and one way is to strike up a conversation with someone from another faith, perhaps invite them over for dinner or a cup of coffee in your city. This is an ideal setting in which to highlight your own practice of Islam and thereby to make a solid case that, in spite of minor differences, Muslims are just like everyone else. Even by changing the mindset of one single person, it can have a long-lasting effect when they go back to their own community or even meet a Muslim in another area of their lives. Our noble Prophet Muhammad was renowned for reaching across the table to make treaties and alliances with non-Muslims because he had the wisdom to know that the Ummah is stronger when we have allies to support us.
Activism Through Social Networking
You might not be in a position to do all of the above or may not be ready to become more engaged in your community. At the very least, you can engage in activism through your social networks. That’s right, even from behind a screen you can still have an impact on the hearts and minds of your friends and loved ones or even people that you meet online in Facebook groups for example. The key to being successful with this type of activism is to present correct information that is based soundly on the Quran and Sunnah. Secondly, you must maintain good manners at all costs and hold your tongue regardless of possible antagonism. You can utilize your own personal page to denounce acts of aggression or terrorism that, by the nature of our faith, are never to be done in our name. At the same time we must present the reality of true Islam—based on the requirements and restrictions of our Sources—to dispel myths and any ambiguity. Our noble Prophet also included a similar method in an authentic hadith:
I heard the Messenger of Allah say, “Whosoever 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 [manifestation] of faith. (Muslim)
Change Fear to Good Deeds
You might not have the power to change politics in the United States or even, by and large, the way Muslims are perceived in a negative light in this country. However, you can have an impact in your own community. No matter how small your effort is, always remember that change starts with you. And just like all things that start out small, they have the capability to snowball into something much bigger and even more meaningful.
Fear is crippling and has no place in the heart of a Muslim. It will eat away at the fiber of your being and can lead to a host of other issues that can affect your daily life. Instead, transform that fear into good deeds and illuminate your little corner of the world with the light of Islam to chase away the darkness.