A brother reminded me recently of an important da`wah (outreach) principle, namely that when you work, you work for the long term, and you do not always see the consequences of your work. The investment is based on principle and that is what matters. We do what needs to be done according to the guidance of Islam, and we leave results to Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He).
This was shown through the divestment efforts at UC San Diego. The brother was saying that the first time they tried was during the Gaza bombardment in 2009, and it was flatly rejected. Then each year after that it was flatly rejected until this year—momentum had started building and now it passed at UCSD with a majority. Had they given up in the beginning they would not have succeeded, but they did what they felt they needed to do and left the rest to Allah (swt). Changing culture and changing people takes time. Patience is necessary.
What makes this lesson so important yet so difficult is that we often times do not see the fruits of our labors. This is true on a large scale and a small scale. However, the “little” things we do actually do impact our surroundings. This is why it is so important to be a person of God-consciousness in all of our affairs. It makes it so that all of our actions are driven by His pleasure and bring goodness into the world. Many times there will be people who interact with us or surround us who are impacted by our actions but we will never know. Sometimes they will come to us much later and tell us and sometimes they will not. Sometimes the positive things that we do will not even bear fruit in our lifetime. That is why we act on principle and not on temporal benefit.
This is all summarized most beautifully by the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) in which he said, “If the Day of Judgment was to come and you had a sapling in your hand to plant, then plant it.” This is acting on principle and that is what is necessary in order to work for the long term.