By Hassan Shibly
Yes. You read that right. This is not a 13 point plan on how to merely survive a Trump Presidency. This is a plan for how we can flourish under a Trump presidency and emerge as stronger Muslims and better positioned Americans than before.
Allah never takes, He only gives. Every apparent challenge is in reality a great opportunity. He promises that with every difficulty comes multitudes of facilitation of ease. If we respond accordingly this challenge will certainly strengthen us in this life, and more importantly, in the next. The Prophet Muhammad’s greatest victories often came after his most difficult challenges. When the Prophet Muhammad acquiesced to a one sided treaty that appeared as a humiliating setback for the Muslims, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, Allah revealed “Truly We have opened up a path to clear triumph for you” and it was the challenging conditions of that treaty that facilitated the way for liberation of Mecca a short time later.
It is the Sunnah of Allah that sometimes, things appear to move backward for us to progress forward. Just like the gears of a clock must turn backward for the hour hand to move forward, or how the string of an arrow must be pulled back, for the arrow to fly forward. The challenges and setbacks we face, have the potential to push us to greater heights. Diamonds are only created after being subjected to great pressure.
Prophet Musa has many examples of this in how he dealt with both Qarun and Pharoah, both of whom have many similarities with the type of leadership we are dealing with today. Allah told Musa “we put you through many trials”—these trials prepared him for the success he ultimately had. And even the Pharaoh was used by Allah to gather people to listen to the message of Moses, and ultimately embrace and support him. Yet it was Musa’s trust in Allah that led him not to despair when those around him feared destruction and said “we are surly destroyed,” Musa’s adherence to Allah’s advice “do not slacken in my remembrance” elevated him and he replied “For sure we are not! My Lord is with me, he will guide me!” It is important to note here that Allah told Musa “I have chosen you for myself” and the following commands included speaking truth to power and challenging the Pharoah.
It was the targeting of Musa by the Pharaoh that ultimately lead to people gathering around Musa, and Musa’s challenging the tyrant of his time was a great form of worship, and it was Musa’s faith and connection with Allah that helped him overcome the challenges he faced and liberate his people.
A Trump Presidency has already brought the American Muslim community in particular and the United States in general tremendous challenges. A man was just elected President who has stated “Islam hates us,” and advocated for a ban on Muslims entering the US and requiring Muslims to register in a government database, monitoring Muslim communities and masjid, and falsely claimed that American Muslims celebrated 9/11.
This anti-Muslim rhetoric has led to a 500% increase in documented anti-Muslim hate incidents in the State of Florida over the last year, and according to the FBI a 67% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes reported to them nationwide.
Any hope his Presidency may be better than his campaign have dwindled after his appointment of hateful and ignorant anti-Muslim bigots within his administration. Since his election he has selected for senior appointments individuals who have claimed American Muslim leaders are complicity in terrorism, have called Islam a cancer and that fear of Muslims are rational, and who believe Muslims are not entitled to Constitutional protections of freedom of religion and that Islam should be eradicated.
No one can doubt the potential challenges this may bring the American Muslim community. Just as we are witnessing an increase in challenges, we are also witnessing the emergence of many people who have committed to learn about Islam, support our community, and even embrace our faith. This is our opportunity to shine and rise to the occasion. To use the audience the conversations about Islam are generating to show people who we are and how our faith can address the problems plaguing our country. To also establish ourselves as champions of civil rights and justice for all.
By following these 13 points we will surely rise stronger in the coming years:
The truth is, these 13 points would have been necessary regardless of who won the election. The community has faced tremendous challenges over the last 8 years under the Obama Administration. Islamophobia has been on the rise, while the FBI and CBP disproportionally target law abiding members of the American Muslim community. It may be that perhaps many of us put our trust in Hillary Clinton and would have gone back to sleep had she won, while the problems facing our community continue to escalate. Perhaps Trump’s victory is an important reminder for us to take a look at what is happening and to place our trust in God and invest our time and resources drawing closer to God by investing in defending our faith and justice for all.
1.Do not give up your identity. Our faith is the most valuable thing we have. It is also the only thing we have that can never be taken away from us. We can only chose to give it up if we allow ourselves to be intimidated by the fear and hate promoted against us. The Islamophobia Industry has spent over $200,000,000 to demonize Islam to scare Muslims away from adhering to their faith. They recognize our faith is our source of strength. As Umar (Ra) said “We are a people whom Allah honored us through Islam, and if we seek honor through other than that, we will be humiliated.” Do not let Islamophobes win by giving in to their intimidation and hiding your identity. Now is the time to respond by holding on stronger to our faith and identity. Our faith gave the sahabah strength to overcome their challenges and likewise it is the key to our strength. It cannot be taken away by anyone. Do not chose to give it up. “Do not lose heart nor grieve, for surely you will rise high if you are believers”
2. Avoid sins as much as possible and quickly repent every time you make a mistake. Do not despair because of your shortcomings. Rather use each mistake as an opportunity to draw closer to Allah through duah and istighfaar. Recognize however that unchecked sins are cited in various ahadith as a source for difficulties in life and being subjected to oppressive rulers and defeat.
- The sahabah would be told “Never fear your enemies, but fear your sins, your enemies cannot destroy you, but your sins can.”
- Umar ibn Abdelaziz would tell his soldiers “Do not be equal to your enemies in sins, for if they are greater than you in number and resources and you are equal to them in sins, then they will surely defeat you, for why should God help you?”
- Abu Bakr wrote in reply: “You Muslims can never be defeated because of being few in number. But because of becoming involved in sin, you will be vanquished in spite of being many in number. Hence guard yourself carefully against sin.”
- “As you are (as far as your actions are) so will be the rulers that will soon be set over you.” (Mishkat)
- Rasulullah said: “You people should continue to enjoin people towards the doing of righteous deeds and you should continue to prohibit them from evil; otherwise Allah will put into authority over you the worst of people to rule over you. At such time the best from among you will pray to Allah (for deliverance) and your prayers will go unanswered.’.’ (Jami-us-Sagheer)
- Rasulullah also said: “When my Ummat will begin to bear hatred in their hearts against the Ulema and when they shall make the construction of their bazaars and shopping places conspicuous and grand, and when they shall in contracting marriages consider only the possibility of accumulating wealth (instead of looking at the honesty, piety and deeds of suitable partners) then Allah will set four calamities over them: famine, the oppression of rulers, dishonesty of the officials administering their affairs and attacks by their enemies.”
- “Allah says: I am Allah besides whom there is no Deity, the Master of Kings, King of Kings. Verily the hearts of kings are under the control of My Hands. When My servants obey me, I turn the hearts of kings and rulers towards them so that they rule over them with mercy and kindness and when My servants disobey Me, I turn the hearts of kings and rulers to treat them harshly, with anger and vengeance. Thereby they mete out torture and oppression. Hence do not occupy yourselves with praying for curses upon kings and instead turn to Me in remembrance and with humility. And I will preserve you against the tyranny of the kings.”
3. Invest in Ibada: As we saw in the life of Prophet Ibrahim, Musa, and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon them all, it was never having greater strength and resources that gave the believers victory over those who oppressed them. Rather, it was their spiritual strength and connection with Allah that helped them overcome the challenges they faced and attain victory over great odds. Now is a great time to remember the importance of having trust in Allah, and building a strong relationship with Allah, through our ibadah to attain the strength we need to remain steadfast and successful. It was the Prophet’s worship of Allah by night that gave him victory by day. Without Allah’s help, we cannot overcome the challenges we face. And when we face difficulties that serves as a great reminder for us to invest in reestablishing our connection with Allah through investing daily time for our ibadah. Fulfilling our obligatory prayers goes without saying, and after that also setting daily time for Dua, athkar, and recitation of the Quran, will give life to our hearts, increase our trust in and connection with Allah, and give us the light and energy we need to uplift our community. Above all it is the key to the only thing that matters: Allah’s pleasure. A study of the Quran and hadith makes clear that challenges in life serve to turn us back to him. That Allah gives us ease and goodness so that we may draw closer to him through gratitude, and he allows us to go through difficulties and challenges so that we can turn back to him.
4. Read the Seerah and other books. Reading the seerah does wonders for keeping our hearts and faith alive and strong. It also gives us hope and teaches us many lessons. Nothing we face is new. The Prophet and Sahabah have been through it all before. Reading the seerah will teach us countless lessons, keep our faith strong, and give us inspiration and wisdom to stand strong. Besides the seerah it is also important to read about the biographies of great heroes and scholars and read books that will grow our minds and strengthen our intellect and faith. Knowledge is the greatest tool we have.
5. Do not let ego, jealousy, suspicion tear us apart. We can’t afford to waste time on in-fighting and ego. Love each other. Wish well for each other. Support each other. Be happy seeing other communitymembers, leaders, organizations succeed. Work sincerely for Allah . Do not let ego divide us. Along with sins, nothing is more destructive to our community than in-fighting which is usually the result of jealousy, ego, or assuming the worst of each other. We cannot overcome external challenges if we are busy fighting and undermining each other. The Prophet Muhammad PBUH is reported to have said “By Allah! I am not afraid that you will worship others along with Allah after my death, but I am afraid that you will fight with one another for the worldly things.” Realize that government often engages in divide and conquer tactics to divide the community. We cannot fall for that.
6. Absolutely excel at what you do. Allah loves the strong believer more than the week believer. The stronger you are spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically, economically, socially, the easier it will be for you to benefit the community with a sincere heart and hard work. In America we are few number, and need to make sure each and everyone one of us counts and is contributing positively in society in as effective way as we can. Be the best student you can be. Stand out in your studies, profession, or interests. Use your success to represent our community the best you can and also find ways to leverage your skill sets to build greater appreciation for our faith and community through service to humanity.
7. Devote time to community service. Our deen is a deen of service. American Muslims must be visible at the forefront of projects that serve and uplift the community as a whole. Find something you are passionate about and dedicate time every week to participate: It could be Habitat for Humanity, the PTA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the local School Board or City Council, Neighborhood Watch, homeless shelter, tutoring program, NAACP, ACLU, or any other community service based institution be it part of local government or NGO. American Muslims must be at the forefront of giving back and serving our community. That is the core of our faith. It is also the best way to reflect the message of Mercy our Prophet was sent with to humanity.
8.Dawah with knowledge and wisdom driven by love and genuine care. Our faith is a gift for us and has the solutions to the problems plaguing our country such as racism and economic disparity and injustice. One of the tragedies of the American Muslim community is at best we have often been simply been calling for people to tolerate us and accept us and not outlaw our faith or discriminate against us. We are simply seeking to say “don’t hate us, don’t outlaw us, we are all the same.” That is an extremely humiliating position to be in. Instead of calling for mere acceptance, we should be proud of our Muslim identity, and with wisdom and driven by love, share with those around us how our faith can uplift and empower them. We have something our neighbors, country, and world needs. We would be selfish not to share it. Our Prophet came to share a message to liberate humanity. We must learn our faith, and be fearless in sharing it, but share it with wisdom and knowledge, while driven by love and compassion, not arrogance. And the time to share the beauty of our faith has never been easier as countless people are becoming curious and sympathetic to our faith and community in light of the increased attacks against our faith in politics and media. We are witnessing the Hamza effect, and just like Hamza declared his support for the Prophet to spite those attacking it, and became a true believer, many are committing to support our community to spite the Islamophobes attacking us and in doing that they are discovering the beauty of our faith
9. Prepare for the 2018 Elections. America’s governance was designed with a system of checks and balances to create separate bodies of those who write the laws, those who interpret and apply them, and those who execute and enforce them. The damage the President can cause is severely limited without Congressional support. What’s troubling is that Congress as it stands is currently controlled by the party of President-Elect Trump. Meaning that it will be easier for Trump to push forward his agenda and try to enact laws detrimental to our freedom and liberty. However elections for some members of the US Congress is in two years, and if the Democrats take control of the Legislature it will make it significantly harder for Trump to push forward laws harmful to our community. Get involved from now in supporting candidates for Congress and local office. Local elections, such as who is on the school board, city council, or county commission, often have the greatest impact on your life. They determine if hate groups can succeed in banning text books that speak accurately about Islamic history from Public schools or whether your masjid can get the zoning permit it needs. Furthermore elected officials often build great relationships with and hire their campaign staff and may rely on them to shape their perspectives and policies. American Muslims taking active roles in political campaigns can have tremendous long term impact both in helping elect candidates sympathetic to our community and being in a position to advice the elected officials. America’s largest hate groups are targeting local and state elected in hopes of pressuring them to pass anti-Muslim legislation and policies, deny Muslim institutions zoning permits, and demonize Islam in the public schools. Helping elect local and state officials who will not be sympathetic to anti-Muslim hate groups, and having relationships with these elected officials, can go a long way to protecting our community.
10. Facilitate for more lawyers to emerge from and serve our community and report civil rights violations. Go to law school. Clerk for a judge. Get a few dozen friends together and commit to support the creation of a full time attorney to work with a local Muslim organization to represent and defend our community. Play any part you can to strengthen our community’s legal defense. With the current administration it appears unlikely that our community can get far via lobbying the administration. The administration may in fact try to pass laws or enact policies and actions that are against the supreme law of the land, the US Constitution. Our biggest defense will be to challenge such laws, policies, or actions via the courts. The administration may have the votes it needs in Congress to pass laws that target our community and it may even have sufficient public support to continue the government’s engagement of actions that hurt our community, but challenging such laws and policies via the courts may be our best defense. The US Constitution is our protection against tyranny and oppression by the government, and investing in a strong legal team to defend our community by challenging laws, polices, and actions that are against the US Constitution may be the strongest defense we have. When it comes to those in power, our job is to hold them accountable, not to seek their pleasure. It is critical that we do not allow our rights to be violated and that we are sure to report to our civil rights organizations each and every violation of our civil rights.
11. Increase Media Presence and Interfaith Engagement: The overwhelming majority of the public know nothing about Islam nor do they know any Muslims. Educating the public and building strong relationships is critical. Every Muslim community must have institutions or at the very least, individuals, well trained to speak to the media and proactively engage the media to make our community voice heard on a wide array of issues. Furthermore social media, and the use of features such as Facebook Video and Facebook Live, make it very cost effective to produce content that can go viral and be viewed by thousands if not millions. Consider supporting institutions to leverage such opportunities or make the most of them yourself if you have or can work with people that have the skillset as well as wisdom for appropriate messaging and narrative crafting. While outreach via the media and social media is important, on the ground relationship building is necessary. Time must be invested both in developing relationships with those who know and are sympathetic to our community and engaging with those who have yet to have the opportunity to meet a Muslim. Effective media engagement and interfaith outreach can help us foster an environment where there will be less tolerance towards elected officials, laws, and policies that threaten our liberty. When it comes to the public, our job is not to win arguments, but to win hearts.
12. Commit at least one dollar a day to the community. Allah describes the hypocrites as those who do not give even the little. Abstaining from contributing even a little is dangerous for our community because if everyone contributed a little, our community’s financial needs would be met. The Islamophobia industry has spent over 200 million dollars to demonize Islam in America over the last few years. However, if the 7 million American Muslims spent one dollar a day to challenge Islamophobia, that would be 210 million dollars a month dedicated to the cause. Four our community to flourish, our mosques, schools, dawah institutions, community service and charity organizations, and organizations committed to defending our rights and representing us need to be well funded. Every Muslim should select a masjid, school, dawah institution, charity, and civil rights organization for the community and commit at least one dollar a day to each or combined, but commit something regularly and consistent. The Prophet Muhammad taught that the best deed is the most consistent even if it is small. And Allah swt warns us to “spend in the path of Allah and not lead ourselves to destruction.” If Islamophobias are spending millions to turn popular opinion against Islam and we do not each spend a little to counter that, we will indeed place ourselves in a destructive position as we suffer the consequences of anti-Muslim laws, policies, and actions from the government. But if we all do a dollar a day, our community will have the resources it needs not only to protect itself, but to win hearts through having the resources to serve the public.
13.Take safety seriously. Every day we hear of a mass shooting, a hate crime, or other acts of violence. It is important that we do not allow ourselves to become victims. Take a personal defense class. Consider keeping on you a means of personal defense. Arrange for your local mosque or school to have a safety and security audit and training.
In conclusion, now is the time to hold strongly to our identity and not be intimidated by those who hate us. We must avoid sins which are a cause for difficulties and bad leadership, and invest time in strengthening our connection with Allah through personal ibada. Nothing we face is new, and we can find hope, inspiration, wisdom, and strength by studying the seerah of our beloved Prophet PBUH. Most importantly, we cannot let ego, greed, and jealousy divide us. We must excel at whatever it is we do and use our skill sets to serve others and represent the community in the best possible ways. We must recognize our faith is beautiful and has lots to offer our country and it’s up to us to reflect and share the beauty of our faith with others. It is critical that we are involved in the next set of elections to do our part to elect those most beneficial to our community and country and develop strong relationships with them. We must however invest in a strong legal defense to challenge government laws, policies, and actions that are contrary to the US Constitution. We also must increase our visibility in the media and engage in more cross cultural and interfaith outreach, as now more than ever, the public recognizes the danger of Islamophobia and is committing to stand with us. We must also commit to a consistent monthly amount to support our institutions and also take basic self-defense and security precautions. Through all this inshallah we will emerge as beacons of light, hope, and justice for all even in the most challenging of times.
Hassan Shibly is a civil rights attorney and Chief Executive Director of CAIR-FL, a non-profited committed to promoting understanding, challenging Islamophobia, and defending civil rights for all people regardless of race or firstname.lastname@example.org