With the current crisis going on in Gaza, Iraq/Syria, and all around the world, I often hear statements like “Please make dua (prayer) for them”, or “Pray for the destruction of the oppressors”, and think to myself: “What good is a prayer without action?”
We have imams supplicating their hearts out at the weekly Friday prayer, imploring God to restore the condition of the “Muslim Ummah” and pleading God to help the Muslims. But that doesn’t seem to do anything whatsoever. The atrocities keep happening, and the “Muslim world” keeps plunging into deeper issues.
Well, let’s see! Because we’re not doing anything about it!
Prayer, as I understand it, is your self-talk with God to provide you a direction towards your goal. To act as a constant reminder, a motivator even. An example would suffice for the skeptic. Ask all your friends and family to pray that you pass an exam, but do not put any effort into studying the material. Do you reckon you will pass? No one does that, because deep down inside you are perfectly aware that it is doomed for failure. So, why persist in this dogma when it comes to the well-being of others?
As long as prayer inspires you to actually do something, or increase your empathy with those who are suffering, it can be considered useful. But in and of itself, prayer is not a magical mantra that would automatically set things aright. From a very early age, we’re brainwashed to pray for this and pray for that. Most of us are not taught activism, unfortunately! Hence, this type of mindset breeds lazy individuals who put everything in the “hands of God” in the face of oppression, greed, and tyranny.
So, what is the problem exactly? Has God stopped listening to us? Or, could it possibly be that we’ve forgotten the vital aspect that WE were supposed to be the vicegerents (Khalifa) of this earth (2:30)? Certainly, you would not ask your boss to do something that was delegated to you!
God has endowed us with body, mind, and soul. Body to be mobile, active. Mind, to ponder and come up with solutions. And Soul, to feel the pain of others. We are assigned a role to help humanity and have been given the necessary tools to collectively achieve this goal. But, what do we do in return? Ask God to intervene somehow to restore order. How ironic! And how utterly ungrateful we have become…
The prophets, our supposed role models, did not pray all day long asking God to put an end to the oppression of human beings. No, they were intelligent beings who knew that prayer without action is a mockery of the “self”. Musa (Peace be upon him) is the prime example for this. An ordinary man with practically no following whatsoever decided to face the tyrant Firaun one on one. With his utmost dedication and determination, he freed the children of Israel from the oppression of Firaun.
These are the role models we have to revive, if we are to improve the sanctity of human life. This is what we call following the example of the prophets. Following their character! And, here too, we have deviated from the right course. Instead of following their character, we try to imitate their personality by dressing up like them. But, I digress.
In conclusion, we have to stop acting as if God will take care of everything eventually. This is not our purpose as human beings. Sure, prayer is a great practice — as long as it is complemented with activism. Contribute your time, your resources, to the well-being of others. Only then will we reach self-actualization. And only then can we hope to have a clear conscience.
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