Don’t Underestimate the Change You Inspire in Others

Outline

Introduction

Alhamdulillah infinitely, all praise is due to Allah. All thanks are for Allah. All good is in the Good Hands of Allah. All affairs shall be returned to Allah. No god but Allah. We seek His Forgiveness at all time; and to Him alone we repent. May His Peace and Blessings be upon Habibi Muhammad, His family members, his companions and all those who follow his guided path.

This article was inspired by a forum, that was organized by the Association of Singaporean Students in IIUM (ASSIIUM), on the 19 November 2012, and I was honoured to join Ustaz Mohd Kamal Mukhtar in the sharing.

The forum (which was under the theme “Aspire to Inspire”), alongside other activities organized by the ASSIIUM, demonstrates that the Singaporean students in IIUM through the ASSIIUM, are not only acquiring the knowledge given in lectures, but they also strive to meet the expectations of the Singapore Muslim community back home, when it comes to morals and values, as they are expected (as Islamic university graduates) to be the pioneers with this regards.

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What is the Change We Want to Inspire?

Everyone has the ability to inspire change. In fact, most of the time, one inspires change without realizing the impact of the change they have made in someone else’s life. However, the inspiration we leave in others can be positive, as well as it can be, intentionally or unintentionally negative.

When you assist the needy, the elderly, or the poor, you touch their hearts significantly, although without you realizing it. And that is a contribution to the process of change. It will certainly inspire them, too, to touch others’ hearts, in a way or another.

In Africa, when there were no mobile phones and Facebook, a male adult could just walk to his girlfriend’s house, find a younger boy or girl, and send him or her to go and call him, his girlfriend, for the “couple” to go out for a sinful date. The lesson (the change) imparted on to the little soul here, is undoubtedly negative. This is because the child has learnt, or has developed a negative social behavior or perception. That “perception” is: It’s just acceptable (or religiously permissible) to go to someone else’s house; send another young boy or girl to go and call you a girl for outing.

The above examples are typical examples of how one can inspire change, positively or negatively.

In this article, the term ‘change’ is used to refer to the desired collaborative effort, which every individual in the society is expected to work towards, in order to lead our respective communities towards righteous tomorrow.

So, the change we are discussing is basically the ‘assumed’ positive inspirations we can leave on others, consciously and unconsciously.

Rasulullah s.a.w. said in a Hadeeth narrated by Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah, and reported by Imam Muslim:

مَنْ دَعَا إِلَى هُدًى، كَانَ لَهُ مِنَ الأَجْرِ مَثْلُ أُجُورِ مَنْ تَبِعَهُ؛ لا يَنْقُصُ ذَلِكَ مِنْ أُجُورِهِمْ شَيْئاً. وَمَنْ دَعَا إِلَى ضَلالَةٍ، كَانَ عَلَيْهِ مِنَ الإِثْمِ مِثْلُ آثَامِ مَنْ تَبِعَهُ؛ لا يَنْقُصُ ذَلِكَ مِنْ آثَامِهِمْ شَيْئاً

It means, “Whoever calls to guidance (righteousness), will be rewarded, similarly to the rewards of those who follow him, without any of their rewards been reduced. And whoever calls to deviation, will carry sins, similar to the sins of all those who act upon it (the deviation), without their sins been reduced.”

In other words, one is rewarded or punished by the multiple of the rewards or sins of people who have acted upon what he has called to. This is although anyone who follows him will only be rewarded or punished, to the extent, to which that righteousness of deviation has taken them, accordingly.

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How Do We Inspire Change?

Everyone dreams of changing his family members the way he or she deem perfect. Everyone wants to change his or her institution or organization for better performance. Everyone wants to change his or her community or society towards excellence. In fact, everyone wants to change the world to be a peaceful and prosperous place to be. But, sadly, everyone fails to change him or herself.

The possibility of change is that, change has to come from within us. It certainly starts from the individual, and extends to our immediate surroundings, and that will eventually leave effects on other members of the community. The last part, where the effects extend farther in the community, takes time to be achieved. But it’s possible; if the initial stage was started with sincerity and patience.

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ

It means, “Allah will not change the condition of a people, until they have changed what’s in themselves.” [Surah Al-Ra’d, 13:11]

In other words, to change our families, communities, societies, organizations, institutions and countries, which are all part of us, it’s important that one starts with him or herself, first.

Successful leaders in organizations are those who were gradually promoted from ordinary staff up to the highest level staff, especially in the education field, where the effect of change can be very crucial. So, let’s be successful leaders of ourselves.

To be aspired to inspire others, let’s consider the following:

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Let’s Take the Responsibility Unconditionally

Every single (unmarried) in the community, who is very concerned about the rising number of divorce cases and teenage pregnancy in the Muslim communities, and thinks of solutions, should start finding the solution from now, within him/herself.

If a lack of trustworthiness as well as faithfulness between any married couple may be the cause of the rising number of divorce among married couples, then one needs to start to develop trustworthiness and faithfulness within him or herself, as singles, individually, before he or she gets married, in the near future.

If what is called ‘Boys-Girls-Relationships’ (BGR), which usually starts in schools (and is usually taken to the university) leads to teenage pregnancy, then, we have to avoid it, and ensure our younger brothers and sisters in schools are aware of the importance of avoiding it.

That way, we are starting to develop trustworthiness and faithfulness in ourselves, in the way that, we have contributed (at least with one’s self) to stop divorce and teenage pregnancy, in the society.

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Leading by Example is Magic!

When we look at the Seerah of Rasulillah s.a.w., we find that most of the Hadeeth that are narrated and linked to him, s.a.w. are Hadeeth(s) that narrate what he did more than it narrate what he verbally uttered, with exception to supplications (du’a). In other words, Rasulullah practiced more than he preached.

No doubt, words of advice and wisdom are important, but people would like to learn from our actions more than they would like to listen to our sermons. People will certainly like to listen to our sermons, after they have assessed our practices and found them matching our sermons.

If one desires to be an ambassador of inspiration and positive change, then they should let their preaches come secondary in the making.

I learnt from a course mate here, that a school principal in Penang, Malaysia, wanted her teachers to adopt modern technology (especially PowerPoint) in teaching all subjects. In order to implement effective change and inspire her teachers, the Principal started to use PowerPoint (technology) in attractive ways, in all meetings with teachers on constant basis.

The message was clear: She wanted positive change and she meant what she said, thus, she took the lead towards the desired change.

As a result, all teachers gradually blended in, to adopt modern technology in their teaching.

Obviously, this is the behavioural learning theory which Rasulullah taught the companions during the treaty of ‘Hudaibiyah’, when they failed to comply with his commands, due to the trauma of that particular moment. But when they saw him slaughtering his sheep and shaving his hair, despite the trauma and the unhappiness among the companions, everyone rushed to slaughter their sheep and to shave (and cut) their hair, accordingly.

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Words of Advice and Wisdom are Powerful

It will be wise if we want to be effective inspirers of change, to call to change through what we practice rather than mere preaching. Preaching is, however, crucial, but it has to done with wisdom. In fact, occasions like Friday sermons (‘Khutbah’) are instructed and made compulsory upon matured Muslims men, to emphasize on the importance of verbal reminder.

وَذَكِّرْ فَإِنَّ الذِّكْرَىٰ تَنفَعُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

It means, “And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers.” [Surah Al-Zhariyaat, 51:55]

Reminder must be objective and constructive, and should be done wisely.

اُدْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ

It means, “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction” [Surah Al-Nahl, 16:125]

Inviting to the way of the Lord is indeed at the top of the pyramid, when it comes to inspiring change.

Words are needed in the process of change. But what is more important than preach, for effective change to take place, is action. Our Holy Prophet is our role model in this. And the Qur’an has unleashed a few verses in the Qur’an, which address this:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ * كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِندَ اللَّـهِ أَن تَقُولُوا مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ

It means, “O you who have believed, why do you say what you do not do? Great is hatred in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do.” [Surah Al-Saff, 61:2-3]

أَتَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبِرِّ وَتَنسَوْنَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ تَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ

It means, “Do you order righteousness of the people and forget yourselves while you recite the Scripture? Then will you not reason?” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:44]

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7We must Take the Initiative and Be Courageous

One of the most challenging part of inspiring change is to see the need for change, yet, one may lack the courage to initiate and to take the right action. This is different from the part I mentioned above “Let’s take the responsibility unconditionally.” This part is challenging because people are often comfortable doing things they see everyone doing (even if it’s wrong), but taking the lead to do things that are not norm, though righteous, requires lots of courage, in addition to taking the responsibility unconditionally.

If we are aspired to inspire change, we need to develop the unconditional courage, which may be needed at any point of time, to initiate change and create the difference, that, although it may start small, it can lead to greater change in the long run, insha Allah.

A friend of mine had a bad experience, in one of SingTel’s centres in Singapore. His experience, however, carries some lessons for us to learn from.

At the SingTel centre, customers standing in long queue were served in only 5 counters out of 17, whereby the rest of the staff were pretentiously engaged in the hidden office.

My friend politely requested to meet the manager of that centre and expressed the unacceptability of situation. Immediately thereafter, the centre manager took my friend’s queue number and his particulars, and within 10 minutes, my friend and another irate customer were served by the counter staff.

To the surprise of customers who were around at that time, all of a sudden the staff came out of their “hidden office” one by one and almost all 17 counters were manned.

This is an example of change we can make happen, in order to take our communities forward. But, courage is really needed in situations like this.

The moral of the story is that, although the staff may do the same another time, or even maybe the next day, but my friend has saved the time of the customers on that day. Other customers have surely learnt something.

Being initiative or having unconditional courage should be tied with wisdom!

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Awareness is Important in the Process

Most of us know the rules regarding most issues in Islam, yet we fail to uphold to them. This happens when we only put in the effort to acquire, and possess the knowledge, but fail to realize and be aware of the need to act upon it when the time to do so arises.

Knowing the ‘Hukm’ (ruling) pertaining ‘care for parents’ (Birr al-Waalidain) doesn’t necessarily mean that one is caring for their parents, until they have developed the awareness of the needs of their parents and provided the relevant assistance, accordingly.

Knowing the importance of Solat is important, but the awareness of praying in congregation very often and how we execute the process of the Solat itself, in accordance to how the Prophet s.a.w. performed and taught it, is more important.

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The Two Basics Needed to Inspire Change

In order to be an effective source of inspiration, I believe in two secrets, without which; one may not be able to complete the task of inspiring change.

Ikhlas (Sincerity)

Sincerity is the key to any righteous deed, especially as far as Islam is concerned. Only Allah knows, and you (or I) too know, whether you (or I) are sincere in what we do and say or not. And because the tool for measuring sincerity is invisible, we tend to overlook the importance of sincerity before planning for any change. If we have attaining Allah’s pleasure in heart, and the focus on serving the people, the community, and the world in mind, our contribution will be effective.

This is to say, serving people doesn’t necessarily mean we are doing the right thing, until that service is tied with genuine intention. And the best intention should be Allah’s Pleasure, and that is what only Allah can determine.

Patience

Alongside sincerity, patience is needed to keep one moving. Miracles don’t take place very often, so does not change. A short-tempered person is not meant to be an inspiration for change, until they have effectively developed patience.

The Prophet, Rasulullah s.a.w. spent 13 ‘solid’ years in Makkah, not only to call the people of Makkah into Islam, but also to inspire change in the hearts of those who have embraced Islam; that is to instill faith in their hearts. The (miracle of) Iman (belief) took 13 years to stabilize in the hearts of the early believers. How long have we been patient, in our pursuit for (miracle of) change?

Those were the two basic secrets. Readers may have more secrets. Kindly share them with us, in the comment area below, so we can all benefit from one another; and this shall be a contribution to the process of inspiring change, insha Allah.

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One Last Thing!

Inspiring change in the lives of our surrounding is import, but inspiring change in one’s own self is more important.

Changing others is optional. But changing ourselves righteously is our responsibility, and thus; compulsory.

وَلَا تَكْسِبُ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ إِلَّا عَلَيْهَا، وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى

It means, “Everyone must bear the consequence of what he does, and no bearer of a burden can bear the burden of another.” [Surah Al-An’aam, 6:164]

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ رَهِينَةٌ

It means, “Every soul, for what it has earned, will be retained” [Surah Al-Muddathir, 74:38]

The point is, the ultimate change everyone can present to world, is that everyone strive to change himself positively first. Just don’t stop there. Expand your circle of change thereafter.

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Conclusion

If we want to change the world, we must start to change ourselves individually, first. We should be leaders for ourselves before we start to be leaders for others. Those who have failed to lead themselves morally are unlikely to lead others righteously, until they change.

It’s said that, Ghandi have said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” But Islam has said it in a better way, much earlier than Ghandi. The Prophet s.a.w. said in a Hadeeth reported by Imam Al-Tirmizhi:

لا تَكُونُوا إِمَّعَةً؛ تَقُولُونَ: إِنْ أَحْسَنَ النَّاسُ أَحْسَنَّا، وَإِنْ ظَلَمُوا ظَلَمْنَا. وَلَكِنْ وَطِّنُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ؛ إِنْ أَحْسَنَ النَّاسُ أَنْ تُحْسِنُوا، وَإِنْ أَسَاءُوا فَلا تَظْلِمُوا

It means, “Don’t be a blind followers, who say, “If people do good, we too would do good. And if they oppress, we too would oppress.” Instead, free your selves; when people do good, so should you, and when they do bad, you should avoid their bad deeds.”

No matter who you are, and where you are, you possess the potential to inspire change, at any time.

A huge problem in the world, if it’s divided to the number of the citizens of the world, will become tiny and have no significance. A small change by each individual of the world, if it summed up, will be a huge achievement with greater significance. So let’s live up to the level of our expected responsibilities.

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