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How to respond in these difficult times

2016 has been a particularly testing year. There has been tragic event after tragic event of mass killings, police brutality, domestic violence, civil war and the ever increasing growth of displaced peoples receiving very little compassion. How does one cope with such harrowing trauma? How do we not descend into a depressive spiral, where we lose hope in humanity and the world?

This is exactly the question a Facebook friend asked on her page yesterday, presumably in response to Sonia Kruger’s controversial remarks, to the Nice attack etc, specifically whether people were feeling increasingly depressed as a result of the state the world was in. Usually I don’t engage in online dialogue, of any kind. There’s too much that can be mistaken, misunderstood, plus the wealth of keyboard warriors, and even my hesitance at expressing my “opinions” because somehow I feel like I have something to say that is worth listening to.

But when I saw this last night (at around 2am after my little one woke up and I put her back to sleep), I was compelled to respond, not out of feeling like I had some unique understanding, but because I owed it to everything that I have been learning lately to respond. To act.

This was my response:

” (I’m) Not feeling increasingly depressed. It’s frustrating, to be sure, but given the reality of our times, not entirely unexpected. Does this mean we should excuse people’s racism? No of course not. But I think it’s important to keep at the forefront of our minds that all, the good and the bad, has been decreed by Allah. As Muslims we should be centred in the circle of life, the circle where we sometimes end up on top, or sometimes on the bottom. As a Muslim, we should be in the centre of that circle. Where the cycle of being at the top or bottom does not shake us too significantly, but we see these times as signs from Allah to reflect, to change our own selves, to draw closer to Allah. So, rather than become depressed, which can make us respond to these difficult times out of emotion, we should reflect that these are but signs of the times, and the best way to respond is through exemplifying Prophetic character. By engaging in positive action. In making sincere effort to do our part right. By being active community members and Australian citizens. To do more as a Muslim community to support one another and rectify the real, damaging issues we currently face. To support our scholars and leaders who do get it right, who work tirelessly for their community. This response is not based on feeling, but what I’ve learnt from my own teacher, Imam Afroz Ali, who constantly reminds me of how to orient ourselves in relation to such trying times. Honestly, I would be depressed too. Especially me! I’m totally prone to dealing with things in such a manner. But now, learning what I’m still trying to learn, anything I see simply cements what I said above. All has been decreed by Allah. We should not live in fear or anxiety. Our response to such vilification has been modelled for us by the best example, our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). We should be doing our utmost best to seek out his (pbuh) example and emulate it.”

Then today I saw Waleed Aly’s #sendforgiveness appeal on The Project in response to Sonia Kruger’s recent comments, and it was literally a real life, in action example of what I was talking about last night. He quite literally emulated Prophetic example by:

  1. Accepting and seeing reality for what it is i.e. that we are ALL scared by the current events of the world.
  2. By calling for forgiveness, by responding to Sonia Kruger’s divisive and heavy comments with compassion and understanding and
  3. By calling for positive action in response by trying to start a #sendforgiveness movement out into the world.

So, yes, the challenges we face are heavy, they hurt our souls, they throw us into internal chaos and confusion, but it doesn’t have to be this way. We have the most beautiful compass to guide us. And yes, it is hard work to get to the centre of that circle. But let’s try, at the very least to try, to espouse his (peace be upon him) teachings and example. I have absolutely no doubt that if we do, not only will we be able to cope better, not only will we become better Muslims, better people, but that the world will also change for the better. For surely, the world will not change, until we change ourselves.

Featured image entitled ‘Reach’ via Eventide.

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