“For Allah will never change the grace which He has bestowed on a people until they change what is in themselves: and verily Allah is He Who hears and knows (all things).” [Sûrah al-Anfâl: 53]

Before delving into the meaning of the phrase “until they change what is in themselves” let us consider the efforts that people can expend to bring about desired changes.

There is a simple mathematical formula that many people like to use to encourage others to call people to Islam, because it shows the value that an individual’s efforts can have. It goes like this: You reach out to one person. Now there are two. Then you both go out and do the same, and the two become four. This can go on until the message reaches all members of society.

The idea of convincing others to offer what they have – no matter how small – is definitely a positive idea. It is in accordance with the justice of Islam that demands from a person only what he or she is capable of.

`Abd Allah b. `Amr b. al-`As relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Report on my behalf even a single verse.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (3461)].

This statement indicates that a person should relate a verse (ayah) of the Qur’ân, no matter how short it is. However, Ibn Hibbân understood the word “ayah” in this statement to be more general and refer to any piece of evidence or ruling. For this reason, he considered this command to be applicable to both the Qur’ân and the Sunnah. His opinion is a valid one. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not make the duty of conveying the message applicable only to capable scholars.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) made special prayers for those who heard his words, memorized them, and then conveyed them to others. This specifically refers to the Sunnah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “May Allah bless a person who hears my words, memorizes them, and then conveys them just as he heard them, for many of those who hear something second-hand may be more able to comprehend it than the one who first heard it.”

This hadîth has been authentically related from a number of Companions: Ibn Mas`ûd, Zayd b. Thâbit, Jubayr b. Mut`im, Abû Sa`îd, al-Nu`mân b. Bashîr, Anas, and Abû al-Dardâ’. Al-Hâkim adds other Companions to this list, mentioning `Umar, `Uthmân, `Alî, Mu`âdh b. Jabal, Ibn `Umar, Ibn `Abbâs, Abû Hurayrah, and others. Therefore, we should agree that we need to call people to positive action, to cooperation, and to making a contribution, even if some of them can only contribute on a small scale, because the greatest flood is made of the smallest drops.

There are people who try to run away from their duties on the pretense that the small efforts that they are capable of are insignificant while what is needed is something massive that can change the balance of power – and this is something that they are quite incapable of bringing about.

In this way, we get lost between those things that we can do but that are ineffective – at least in their opinion – and those things that are effective but that we are incapable of. This is merely an excuse and a deception to help us escape from our responsibilities. A more balanced view of one’s efforts is to see them in conjunction with the efforts of millions of others. Together, these efforts could possibly tip the scales.

I would like to mention an interesting experience that I had a few months ago when I visited an ailing sheikh. He was completely paralyzed by his illness. He was not able to move or to speak. He was only able to see and hear. I found him waiting for me anxiously with a page full of disjointed words that looked like something out of a crossword puzzle.

It read:
Disregard the meaning of his message for now and consider instead what he had to do to express this idea of his, an idea that is in and of itself a bit difficult – the idea of developing a single world language. He had a board which had all the letters of the alphabet written on it. Whenever the people around him realized that he wanted to say something, they would bring this board to him. They would point to every letter one by one until he indicated with his eyes that they had reached the right one. They would write the letter down and start the process all over again. It took 305 successful attempts to produce the message given above, and we cannot even guess at the number of unsuccessful attempts. It took over two months of what must have been a mentally strenuous process for the sheikh’s entire message to be recorded. Who among us does not have a pen or a sheet of paper or an idea or a suggestion or something else to offer? Do any of these things require from us even the least effort?

The Arabic word for a human being is “insân”. It is derived from the root word “naws” meaning to move in the manner that the tongue and other things move. A human being is by nature a creature of movement and activity. For this reason, the most honest names for a person to have are Hârith (meaning ploughman) and Hammâm (meaning enthusiastic).

Abû Wahb al-Jashmî relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The most beloved names to Allah are `Abd Allah (Slave of Allah) and `Abd al-Rahmân (Slave of the Beneficent), and the most honest names are Hârith and Hammâm.” [This hadîth can be found in Sunan Abî Dâwûd, Sunan al-Nasâ’î, al-Bukhârî in al-Adab, Musnad Ahmad, and other sources. The accepted opinion regarding this hadîth is that it is mursal, meaning that the person who related it from the Prophet (peace be upon him) was not one of his Companions.]

The existence of will and determination – and consequently action and movement – is integral to the human condition. This applies equally to both worldly and spiritual endeavors. Whenever a person loses complete interest in both, then existence becomes meaningless. A person who has absolutely no desire to engage in any kind of activity whatsoever (or perhaps has such a desire but is completely incapable of carrying it out) lives an existence without meaning. Most cases of suicide stem from such a state of mental illness.

Islamic Law does not recognize a state where a person is incapable of all action. As long as the heart is alive, it can do a lot. It is the source of goodness and virtue. It is the organ that the health of the whole body is contingent upon. It is the source of our striving: “Whoever resists them with his heart is a believer.” It is the source of disapproval: “Whoever is not able to stop wrongdoing with his hands, then with his heart.” It is where intentions are formulated. It is the source of prayer and humility. Many a sincere prayer that goes unspoken still reaches its destination.

The following poem expresses this idea:

The night travelers did not journey over land seeking a place
Nor for this did they cross the wilderness.

They traveled where others would not venture and paused not for refreshment
Nor could they be restrained by anything at all.

They stop behind the night as the night pitches its tent,
Inside which is amusement and rest.

The doors of the heavens open before them when
One of them knocks upon the doors.

When they send forth a delegation, Allah never turns them back
And Allah is the One who sees and hears.

And verily I call out to Allah until it is as if I see
With the best of my vision what Allah is doing.

As do these verses:

And verily I pray to Allah while circumstances are heavy upon me
And no sooner am I freed.

And many a young man whose ways are all obstructed
Finds a way out by praying to Allah.

Awakening the industry and productivity within the Muslim’s personality is the cornerstone of effecting desired change and bringing about the means by which each individual can carry out his desired role. Those who wish to effect change without a proper understanding of how to bring it about should think about how any one of us is incapable of changing any aspect of his nature. How then is he to hope to change the world? Things must be seen in perspective to other things.

This discussion shall be continued…