Thinking Beyond Oneself

Thinking Beyond Oneself

We live in an age of hyper-individualism (a tendency for people to act in a highly individual way, without regard to society). Many young people today have grown up in an environment that has made them extremely self-focused. The Self-Help industry has played a major role in making this problem worse. Everything is about your goals, your dreams, and your desires. Many people have reached a dangerous level of self-centeredness. At this point, life has become all about the self. There is no sense of family, community or ummatic concern. The needs and desires of the self override everything else.

Islam, however, calls on us to find balance between fulfilling the rights of the Creator, the rights of the Creation and our own needs and goals. This balance is missing a lot of modern culture. Many young people do not want to get married because they do not want the responsibility of another person. If they do get married, many young people do not want to have children because they see children as a burden and an obstacle in the way of their personal goals. The idea of one’s neighbours, community or the ummah as a whole having rights over oneself has become a foreign idea in the minds of many people.

This problematic paradigm needs to be adjusted. People need to learn how to care about others. The dangers of not doing so is that many people will end up alone, and communities will slowly fall apart. Communities thrive when people care about each other and put the needs of others above their own. To get back to this natural way of living, here are a few necessary steps we can all take.

Embrace Responsibility

Muslims must be responsible and socially conscious people. The rights of others are not a burden, but an opportunity for us to become the best versions of ourselves. It is through taking care of the rights of others that we find fulfilment and true happiness. Responsibility is necessary for growth, and for unlocking better versions for ourselves.

Start small and take up responsibilities around the home and at work. When you are ready, embrace the responsibility of starting a family. As your family grows, so will you. Marriage and becoming a parent are important milestones that shape us and help us grow into better versions of ourselves. So do not delay these important steps unnecessarily. Over time, you will find more joy in fulfilling your family responsibilities then in selfish pursuits.

Learn more about other people and their lives

Too many of us live in silos. We sit all day at home working online, while surfing social media and streaming movies and tv shows. Such people lack real lives and connection with others. This is an unnatural way of life that has made us disconnected from humanity. It is time to break away from these dangerous habits and embrace the real world.

Leave the comfort of your home. Talk to real people. Learn about their challenges, problems, and dreams. Form real friendships and connections with others. This will help you develop more empathy for people and change the way you think about life and your goals. Once you connect deeply with enough people and understand their problems, your own goals may evolve from selfish pursuits to solving societal problems. It is then that you will discover the true joy of contribution. A joy that the selfish person can never understand.

Make time to serve your community. Volunteer to help others. Go out and do what you can for others. Assist your neighbours, join a community development initiative, and get involved in helping others. There is far more joy in service than in being alone. Over time, you will learn to enjoy this more than your personal pursuits.

Study the Quran and Sunnah teachings on this topic

The Quran and Sunnah are full of wisdom on the importance of family, community and ummatic concern. We will end with some quotations from the Quran and Sunnah for you to reflect on. Hopefully, this reflection can inspire true and deep change in all of us.

Quran on Ummah

“You are the best community that ever emerged for humanity: you advocate what is moral, and forbid what is immoral, and believe in God.” (Surah Ale-Imran 3:110)

“And cooperate with one another in virtuous conduct and conscience, and do not cooperate with one another in sin and hostility. And fear God. God is severe in punishment.” (Surah al-Ma’idah 5:2)

“This nation of yours is one nation, and I am your Lord, so fear Me.” (Surah al-Muminun 23:52)

Hadiths on Caring for others

“Seek out the vulnerable for me, for you are only given provision and divine support due to your care for the vulnerable.” (Abu Dawud 2594)

“The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” (Sahih Bukhari 6011, Sahih Muslim 2586)

“Whoever would love to be shaded in the shade of Allah, let him help someone in hardship or waive a loan.” (Musnad Ahmad 15520)

“Allah continues to fulfill the needs of the servant as long as he fulfills the needs of his brother.” (Mu’jam al-Kabir 4664)

“The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth, and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” (Tirmidhi 1924)

“Verily, the believers are like bricks of a building, each part strengthening the other,” (Sahih Bukhari 481, Sahih Muslim 2585)

“There is a (compulsory) Sadaqa (charity) to be given for every joint of the human body (as a sign of gratitude to Allah) everyday the sun rises. To judge justly between two persons is regarded as Sadaqa, and to help a man concerning his riding animal by helping him to ride it or by lifting his luggage on to it, is also regarded as Sadaqa, and (saying) a good word is also Sadaqa, and every step taken on one’s way to offer the compulsory prayer (in the mosque) is also Sadaqa and to remove a harmful thing from the way is also Sadaqa.” (Sahih Bukhari 2989)

Hadiths on avoiding jealousy and hatred between believers

“Renounce the world and Allah will love you, and renounce what the people possess and the people will love you.” (Nawawi’s 40 Hadith, 31)

“None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself.” (Sahih Bukhari 13)

“Do not envy one another, and do not inflate prices for one another, and do not hate one another, and do not turn away from one another, and do not undercut one another in trade, but [rather] be slaves of Allah and brothers [amongst yourselves]. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim: he does not oppress him, nor does he fail him, nor does he lie to him, nor does he hold him in contempt. Taqwa (piety) is right here [and he pointed to his chest three times]. It is evil enough for a man to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. The whole of a Muslim is inviolable for another Muslim: his blood, his property, and his honour.” (Sahih Muslim 2564)

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership, Productivity