By Shaykh Omar Baig
As the U.S. presidential elections begin kicking into high gear, once again Islam and Muslims are a major talking point. The bigotry, hatred, and racism openly spewed out have reached unprecedented levels. It almost feels as if such apparent hateful rhetoric was never before acceptable.
However, this is nothing new. It has been a reality for numerous groups throughout American history. Different minorities were misrepresented and then struggled to clear up the misconceptions about them. Eventually, they all gathered, voted, and remained determined to successfully change the narrative.
As Muslim minorities, that makes this election all the more important for us. As we collectively continue to try to change the perception of Islam in the West, the next leader elected can either be a step forward or a few steps back. The Prophet ﷺ throughout his thirteen years of da’wah in Makkah left many lessons for the Muslim minorities to effectively push for change. Below are a few points we can keep in mind as Election Day draws closer:
Don’t be Afraid to Push for Change
For some reason, we tend to believe political activism is un-Islamic or is unfounded from the Sunnah. But when going through the books of seerah, we find the Prophet ﷺ throughout his life always led movements: movements for peace, justice, and equality. He always gave voice to those who had no voice. He constantly pushed for change even when it was against the status quo. He did so when he was the oppressed and even after becoming the leader, and he always did this with peace and love, constantly captivating hearts through his sublime and affectionate character. The Prophet ﷺ would even write to non-Muslim leaders around the world inviting them toward good. While the practice of da’wah continues among regular people, da’wah to political leaders has almost become a forgotten practice.
Get Others Involved
The Prophet ﷺ would always be busy giving da’wah to others. The Companions followed suit and right after accepting Islam, they would busy themselves in inviting others toward good as well. To effectively push for change, we also must get the whole community involved.
When looking at past movements, such as the civil rights movement for African Americans or the movement for women’s rights, we see they only came to fruition once the community as a whole came together to push for political change. One of the main reasons Muslim bashing is an accepted practice among politicians is because they do not see Muslims as a unified group that votes. They neither see a need to appeal to Muslims, nor any repercussions for speaking against them. Other minorities, such as Blacks, Hispanics, etc. are organized voting blocs and are now considered crucial minorities who politicians attempt to appease. Can the Muslim community not do the same?
Another election we can look to as an example is the most recent Canadian election. Muslim voters played a vital role in electing their current Prime Minister. Young Muslims organized a grassroots campaign, The Canadian Muslim Vote, and pushed the Muslim communities to unify and vote. The result? A record breaking turnout of 79% of Canadian Muslims and a new progressive Prime Minister.
Be Patient and Stay Consistent
Throughout the prophetic era in Makkah, patience was one common theme of the Qur’anic verses being revealed. Like all movements in the past, staying steadfast is of utmost importance. No change will happen overnight or even in one election cycle. Along with the presidential elections, we should be aware and involved in upcoming elections for our senators, governors, mayors, and even our lower level district leaders. Get to know the new policies being suggested by potential candidates and how they would affect you, as well as the Muslim community at large.
Also, beware of the political cynics who will try to deter you from voting. They will argue every candidate is bound to do some form of wrong or evil, so why bother voting and be responsible for the wrongs they may commit?
It’s true no candidate will ever be perfect. There will always be potential downsides with whomever you choose to support, but does that mean we should not even attempt to push for the better of the two? While we definitely aren’t responsible for every bad decision the candidate will make, it is very possible we could be held accountable by Allah if a worse person is elected when we could have prevented it. Participation in the political process helps promote the best interests of Muslims and overall good in society. Staying inactive and not voting at all only emboldens those who don’t deserve to be in office.
We are either part of the problem or part of the solution—there’s nothing in between. The choice is ours to make.
The Best Response is Always Good Character
While pushing for change, be sure to never do so in a violent or rude manner. Being harsh only further pushes the narrative of Islamophobia. During the thirteen years after prophethood in Makkah, Muslims were persecuted, harassed, and tortured regularly. Yet, not once do we ever find the Prophet ﷺ ever retaliating with violence or even responding harshly. The Prophet ﷺ and the Companions continued giving da’wah in a peaceful manner and always exemplified the best form of character. By doing so, they left a message for all Muslim minorities to come until the Final Day; that no matter how difficult the times, never let anyone stop you from showing Islam for what it truly is: love, compassion, and mercy.
Change Starts From Within
Last, and most important, never forget to focus on changing yourself and strengthening your own iman. At the very beginning of Islam, there was no ruling to openly propagate and give da’wah to others. Rather, the first revelations focused on doing good and strengthening one’s connection with Allah. The initial commandments given by Allah mentioned reading Qur’an, performing tahajjud (optional night prayer), and remembering Allah in abundance. The Muslims were taught early that the key to successful da’wah and effective change always starts with strengthening one’s own iman.
This is how the Prophet ﷺ and his noble Companions successfully pushed for change when they were minorities. Follow their way and you shall be guided.
O Allah! Keep our hearts steadfast on your deen and allow us give da’wah to others in the best way possible. Ameen.