IMAN: The passionate life
October 18, 2009 12:01AMT
In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: "When any one of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand. 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 let him change it with his heart, though that is the weakest (kind of) faith." [Muslim]
A couple of months ago I was standing in front of the Arrival Hall of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, waiting to pick up someone when I noticed a poster about the H1N1 (Swine) Flu. On a whim, I decided to call the information hotline, wanting to see just how much (as the poster proclaimed) the Federal Government of Nigeria was dedicated to ‘protecting Nigerians from Swine Flu'. The first 2 numbers rang without answer, the third was ‘switched off' but I hit the jackpot when the fourth number was picked up and a bored voice offered me a desultory "hello".
I told him I had seen the posters and wanted more information about Swine Flu. He asked me to go to the Ministry of Health offices in Lagos. I refused, pointing out that I had called him precisely to obtain the information he was sending me off to find.
He asked if I had any symptoms. I said I had a cold and a bit of a sore throat. He replied: "If those are all the symptoms you have then I can assure you that you don't have Swine Flu. This line is only for people who are seriously ill" and then he (I kid you not) hung up on me! This story will probably invoke three reactions: A) indignation and righteous anger on my behalf and hopefully on behalf of all Nigerians; B) a few murmurs of sympathy but no visceral feelings otherwise and C), which I suspect will be the most common-apathy, acceptance and quite a few "So? What else did you expect? This is Nigeria after all!" And therein lies the rub.
Do good works There is no room for passivity in Islam.
Not as a faith and certainly not as a complete way of life. In the Quran, the words "those who believe" are usually accompanied by "and do good works"-making it clear that belief/faith alone is hollow and insufficient without the action to go with it. Islamic history itself is fecund with examples of passionate people, from the prophets to the people. It's hard to imagine any of the prophets being apathetic to anything- Even before Moses' (RA) call to prophethood, his passion and commitment to justice made him commit manslaughter when he came to the defense of an Israelite and he inadvertently killed the Egyptian with whom the latter was fighting.
The Prophet Muhammad, his Companions and the early Muslims are exemplars in zeal, courage and passion for Islam that imbued every aspect of their lives; from their eagerness to learn about the religion and practice what they learned, to defending the young faith with their wealth and their lives.
The stories of the extraordinary lengths to which Imam Bukhari went, in the process of collecting, authenticating and collating the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are inspiring even more so because he expected no (earthly) rewards for his work; no grand publicity and book signings, no gigantic advance fees and certainly no royalties.
Gani Fawehinmi, God rest his soul, did not leave an outstanding track record of fighting for justice by being indifferent.
Muhammad Yunus did not empower thousands of impoverished people and redefine Microfinance by being unconcerned about the plight of the underprivileged.
Nigeria did not become independent by having a bunch of self-serving, visionless, passionless people fight for her.
Sacrifices The best organizations who are doing amazing things all over the world-the GreenPeaces, the Habitat for Humanitys,
the Doctors Without Borders-are all characterized by individuals who sacrifice wealth and comfort for a greater ideal and a passionate conviction that the world can and should be a better place.
It is true that passion when used in the pursuit of the wrong things can be a devastating weapon. It is also true that being passionate is hard work and very hard to sustain; but I believe that is the path of the "steep uphill road" mentioned in the Quran that all true believers must try to climb. Passion without commitment and action is as hollow as faith without good works.
Dictators, politicians and rude customer service staff count on our apathy because it's the fuel that powers their misrule and makes us co-conspirators in their egregious actions. Our most effective defense is our passionate commitment to living an exemplary life and the deeds we do to support that ideal.
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