Do you know yourself?
Most Muslims know the famous quote, “God will not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.”But how do we do this?In reflecting on the answer, I’ve decided to take a practical approach. I did this by using principles of Quran, and what I know of the world we live in today. But before we suggest practical solutions to this dilemma, let’s ask ourselves some fundamental questions:
Who are you—really?
Allah says, “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be [against] rich or poor…” (4:135).
But how can we be fair and just concerning ourselves when we don’t even know our own deficiencies?Yes, it is our responsibility to introspect and ponder over who we are and how we can better serve society in a realistic and truthful manner. I think we all know this. But we can’t ignore the fact that there are endless hurdles, difficulties, and distractions that block our ability to truly know ourselves in today’s society.
Scandal, Keeping up with the Kardashians. Or any of the dozens of television shows, toxic songs and videos we are exposed to every day.
It is through this media and music that the power and money controllers have developed a powerful medium for penetrating our hearts—those same hearts we say we are trying to change.
So what is happening to us?
For most of us—if we didn’t live under a rock—our exposure to television and radio was at a very early age. If we look at the example of television, at minimum, a basic commercial is shot at 23 frames per second—where 1 frame equals 1 image. And if a commercial lasts 30 seconds, a single commercial burns at least 690 images into your brain. And that’s just a commercial. You might be thinking, “So what? What difference does it make?”
Well, consider this: Let’s say you watch television 2 hours a day (the average American watches 3), in one year you’ve watched 60 million 4 hundred thousand images.
Now, let’s say you do this for 21 years. 12 billion 60 million images, illusions created by marketers whose sole purpose is to make their product your GOD.
Brothers and sisters: You have been programmed. I have programmed. We have been programmed. But here’s something to think about: programming and indoctrination aren’t even the real issue here. The real issue is allowing these “false gods” into our lives—everywhere you look, people are calling us to worship money, material things and even our own egos. And why? Because their very businesses call them to lead that process and make our decisions for us.
Should you follow your dreams?
No matter where you go, you’ll find someone telling you to follow your dreams. But what are our dreams but recreations of things we see , hear , and think about on a daily basis? And if that is dominated by the television images implanted in our brains, then we aren’t following our own dreams. We’re following someone else’s.
Why is being a doctor or lawyer is more important to us than giving charity to our neighbor?
Being a lawyer is fine. But in the eyes of Allah a janitor who gives charity is that is greater than a miserly lawyer. And though a charitable lawyer and a charitable janitor may be ultimately equal, human beings are automatically more impressed with the lawyer.
We are what we eat. We all know that fatty foods lead to heart disease, heart attack and physical death. But what about the food for our soul? Toxic discourse, through words, images, and music also lead to heart disease—spiritual heart disease. Only this is the internal heart that can lead to the destruction of the soul which is more important than physical death, because it can lead to worldly disgrace and the damnation of the hereafter.
Its that serious. But there is hope.
The greatest gift and biggest trial Allah has given us on this earth is our ability to decide.
Its what separates man from the animal. When we decide to prioritize Allah, it is Allah who changes our condition.
But we first have to want to change it ourselves.
So what is the solution to all of this?
“O mankind! There has come to you a direction from your Lord, and a healing for the [diseases] in your hearts; and for those who believe, a guidance and a Mercy” (10:57).
So when we ask ourselves who we are, we turn to the Qur’an for the answer. Allah has instructed us to read His Book, and this is not optional.
Remember those commercials we spoke about earlier? Ever wonder why you see them over and over again? Because repetition is one of the proven keys to effecting change.
And Allah in his infinite wisdom uses repetition perfectly in His Holy book to drive home the most important principles of belief. His Words are so powerful and potent that if we were to just allocate 15 minutes a day to reading Qur’an, this could change our whole life—despite the negative things we see and do every day.
Should you follow your dreams?
Obviously, on the practical level, we cannot spend every waking moment reading Quran. And Allah in his infinite mercy has provided us various beneficial ways to spend our time so that we reach our dream of Paradise.
But just as we care about the food we feed our bodies, let us care about the food we feed our souls; and we can do this by guarding carefully these five things: our eyes, our ears, our tongues, our bodies, and our environments.
So let us look and listen to that which is closest to reality, speak words that are efficiently beneficial, take care of our bodies in the best way, and make sure our social and home environments help us become the best of ourselves—especially as we strive to follow our ultimate dream of entering Paradise. Or maybe this is the behavior needed to change our ultimate dreams from things of the material world to the ultimate destination.
No, it is not easy, and yes, we will make mistakes and fall into sin from time to time.
But Allah says,
“O My servants who have wronged your souls! Despair not of the Mercy of God, for God forgives all sins. Truly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (39:53).
So let’s remember that mercy and forgiveness as we strive to be the best of ourselves—and in doing so, with the help of Allah, we will come to change the condition of ourselves in the best way.