What happens when what you have spent years building is lost in one day? How do you control the actions of others that will unfairly, but inevitably, be associated with you? Is it really worth even doing anything at all?
In the Qur’an, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) tells us about the Prophet ‘Uzayr `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him). The Prophet ‘Uzayr was sent to a destroyed Jerusalem. It was razed to the ground. There were no people, no trees, and no buildings. There was absolutely nothing there. ‘Uzayr had no idea what he would be sent to. And so imagine how dumbfounded he must have been when he saw the state of the place. He might have wondered why he was even sent, because it was beyond saving. As he looked at that forsaken land, he asked the question:
“How will Allah bring this to life after its death?”
We might ask ourselves the same question. After the shocking events in Paris and the (selective) media outrage, the subsequent Islamophobic attacks and backlash against Muslims—is it dead? Can we ever really do anything when no matter what good we do, we will be blamed for the actions of a few? And those actions, as deplorable as they are, will be divorced from their roots: of foreign invasions, occupations and killings. So we will never actually reach a coherent solution, because our diagnosis of the disease is so off-mark.
‘Uzayr was alone. He only had a bit of food, and a donkey to ride. But as he stood there, he picked up whatever broken pieces he could find. And he began building the foundations. Then he retreated to a mountain so he could rest for the night.
But Allah (swt) caused him to die for a hundred years. He brought ‘Uzayr back to life after those hundred years. But something else happened. Jerusalem was also given life. People had come after him, and built upon the foundation that he started. People had moved back. Jerusalem was alive again. When ‘Uzayr saw this, we are told in the Qur’an:
“And when it became clear to him, he said, ‘I know that Allah is over all things competent!'” [Qur’an, 2:259]
No matter how much other people destroy, we need to be like ‘Uzayr. We might wonder how this will ever be fixed. It does not matter. Our end is Allah (swt). We are accountable to Him and will only be held responsible for what we did—not for what others do in our name. And so we will continue to do. If we build for a hundred years and it gets destroyed in a day, we will pick up the pieces and build again.
But let us build.
Let us build the things that will remain even after we are gone. We are all capable of doing something. We are given a short time on this earth, and our time will not come back. We will not take our possessions with us. But we will leave a legacy—big or small, good or bad.
Allah (swt) sent the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) at a particular time. He did the best he could do within his context. And we are alive at this moment in time for a reason. We may not be able to influence what people do in other places, but certainly we can do good where we are. We can help. We can revive—because that is what we were brought to this earth for.
Plant a seed, and see how Allah (swt) makes it grow. We may all plant seeds that today are hidden in the ground and covered in dirt. And we might ask, “How will Allah bring this to life after its death?” But those seeds will become a garden one day, God willing.
Let us build for the things that will last.
Some Muslim builders: