Journalism entered my life by default. I knew from the age of maybe 6 or 7 that I had a lot to say. As I grew up, I realized that I loved to express my thoughts through writing. I realized that whatever I said needed to have a “purpose”.
Graduating in business studies gave me a degree but somehow it did not fulfill my desire of being Me. An internship in a magazine was destined to tell me that being a writer was my calling. But, again I will say, journalism came by default. And that too development sector journalism (related to social welfare) which over the years automatically became my choice, my niche. It seemed to fulfill my aim of “purposeful writing”. In defence of the media, unlike those who say that media is all bad and irresponsible, I sincerely believe that media also spreads a lot of good in this world.
The Turning Point in My Life
Among the many turning points in my life, a huge one was yet to come. A blessing, a gift. The most joyful and most rewarding, albeit at times exhausting, journey of discovering the Qur’an. In the very words of the Qur’an, فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
“For indeed, with hardship (will be) ease.”
[Al-Quran: Ash-Sharh (The Relief), Verse 5]
The journey, I am grateful to report, Alhamdulillah continues even today, more than a decade after it began. I hope will continue till the moment I take my last breath. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know of this treasure!
In the initial stages of re-discovering my faith, the humanitarian in me at times clashed with the “Muslim by Choice” in me. This happened maybe because in everyday conversations, I often heard people say “humanity is the best religion”. Due to no fault of theirs and my own naivety, I began to see humanitarian efforts and the attempt to adhere to my faith as the two banks of a river, flowing in a parallel fashion but never meeting. I saw them as distant, apart, even though the waters of goodness continued to splash on both of them.
And then, in the course of understanding the Qur’an, I went through Seerah (life of Rasul Allah صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم). The Seerah opened new doors to a deeper understanding of things. I understood the Qur’an better when I read more of the Seerah. I understood humans and relationships better than I had ever understood before. My relationship with the universe, the environment, with other humans and very importantly, with myself reached new heights. The disbelievers of Makkah are on record in asking for miracles to prove Rasul Allah’s (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) prophethood. I wonder if they ever really observed his life closely.
The miracle walked amongst them for 63 years, every single day of those 63 years equaled more than a century in splendour. The way Rasul Allah (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) talked, walked, ate, slept, worshipped Allah in salaat or fought battles on the battlefront was exemplary. And ever so importantly, the way he dealt with people, his relationships, hisikhlaaq (character), his human-centred attitude and his understanding of human psyche led to more and more clarification of life as I dug deeper into its study.
What became clearer was the meaning of this beautiful verse:
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ
“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy for the worlds”
[Al-Quran: Surah Al-‘Anbya (The Prophets), Verse 107]
The mercy of Rasul Allah (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم)! It showered, among other forms, in the form of alleviating the pain and difficulties of the down-trodden and the under-privileged. And, with Allah’s (سبحانه وتعالى) Mercy, I understood soon that humanitarian efforts and practicing Islam are not antonyms, neither are they different banks of the same river. Rather, Islam is the river of all things good. It is the river of every Khair (goodnesss), of every Hasana. And that good must translate into efforts that remove pain and suffering of humanity. That is the teaching of Allah’s (سبحانه وتعالى) Book, and the Seerah of His beloved Prophet Muhammad (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم).
The Qur’an warns us lest we forget this when it says:
أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ 1
فَذَلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ 2
وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَى طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ 3
فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ 4
الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ5
الَّذِينَ هُمْ يُرَاؤُونَ6
وَيَمْنَعُونَ الْمَاعُونَ 7
“Have you seen the one who denies the Recompense? For that is the one who drives away the orphan. And does not encourage the feeding of the poor. So woe to those who pray.[But] who are heedless of their prayer – those who make show [of their deeds]. And withhold [simple] assistance.”
[Al-Qur’an: Surah Al-Maun (The Small Kindness), Verse 1-7]
And then I glance at his life; the life of he who was mercy to the worlds. And I see his hand on the head of the little orphan Anas (رضى اللهُ عنها ) who is in his service for ten years. And I see examples of Rasul Allah’s (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) unending deeds of charity. And I see him preferring others over himself and walking the talk and leading by example. I see him as a caretaker of the slaves and the poor and the needy and the widows and the orphans. I see him sending humanitarian aid to Makkah at a time of famine; and this is a time when Makkah is in a state of war with Medina.
I see him protecting the rights of the most down trodden strata of society. Women were a part of the patriarchal Arab society who had no rights. I see Rasul Allah (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) giving women, by the command of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), the right to choose a spouse or to divorce him, and a woman the power to exercise her rights awarded by Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) just like the men. Women have rights that are different but not less in any way. I see him protecting the rights of slaves. And I see him making sure that the widows and orphans get their rightful shares in inheritance. I see him making sure that the rich and powerful do not oppress the poor. And that in Islam, in the light of his Seerah, I know today that there is no discrimination or marginalization on the basis of colour or race. If there is such a thing in a Muslim society today, I know that we as Muslims are at fault, and not our religion.
Realizing that ibaadah (worship) is done in a multitude of ways, I know today that serving humanity is a part of worship, for it is one of those deeds that win Allah’s pleasure. A hadith of Rasul Allah (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) states: “Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to mankind.”
[Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 473].
Dawah done without sincerity and being a true well-wisher of humanity will be empty; something like a colourless flower with no beautiful smell emanating from it. Our calls towards Allah’s (سبحانه وتعالى) book will bounce back from ears that are blocked by hunger or disease or suffering. Dawah is powerful only when done with true sincerity, for a hadith of Rasul Allah(صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) aptly says: ‘Ad deenu naseeha, ad deenu naseeha, ad deenu naseeha’ – The Deen is sincere advice, the deen is sincere advice, the deen is sincere advice. [Sahih Muslim].
This realization has given me a calm; a peace Alhamdulillah. A good Muslim will, for sure, be involved with social welfare, and use it as a form of showing gratefulness to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) for His infinite mercies. Today, when I write anything as a journalist, and call attention towards a problem that causes humans like me to suffer, and want to increase awareness that may help reduce the suffering of humanity, I know that in addition to the rituals that are the foundation of my faith, this too is a form of ibaadah (worship).
About the Author
Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam is a freelance writer, columnist and blogger. Her forte is writing about human rights, gender and health issues. She is a member of the Al Huda family of workers.