I think there’s a place in the human mind where we hide when there’s nowhere left to go. And perhaps there’s a part of the human heart where we relive forever unthinkable tragedy. However, for the people in Palestine today, that tragedy is not just an image of the mind or heart; it is the only reality they know.
As I stand helplessly watching the carnage in Palestine, I too find myself unsure of where to go. I look for a place inside my mind, a place where I can make sense of the senseless and imagine that it isn’t really happening. I drift between sadness, anger, depression, and back, but in the end I return to one relentless question:
Why is this happening to us? Why are we suffering all over the world? Why are we so helpless to stop it? Why are we so politically powerless in the very country we are citizen to? Why do we scream at the top of our voices, writing letters and calling representatives in the White House, only to have them continue the mantra: “Israel has a right to defend itself?” Why are we at this point? Why?
We have to ask why.
We have to stop and really examine where we are as an ummah (nation) and what we have become. There was once a time when Muslims were revered in the world, a time when we were loved by our friends and feared by our enemies. Today we have become the most targeted, vilified, and hated group in the world. In a recent Gallup poll, more than half of Americans said their opinion of Islam is “not too favorable” or “not favorable at all”, and 43 percent admit harboring at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims—more than double the percentage reported towards Christians, Jews or Buddhists.
But we are not just hated. In many places, we are being tortured, killed, and stripped of our belongings. Where we are not physically targeted, we are stripped of our rights, falsely accused, and even falsely imprisoned. In fact, the widespread hatred of Muslims has become so deep that anti-Muslim rhetoric has become the accepted bigotry of choice.
This situation that we as an ummah find ourselves in was described in detail more than 1400 years ago. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said to his companions (radi Allahu `anhum): “The people will soon summon one another to attack you as people, when eating, invite others to share their food.” Someone asked, “Will that be because of our small numbers at that time?” He replied, “No. You will be numerous at that time: but you will be froth and scum like that carried down by a torrent (of water), and Allah will take the fear of you from the hearts of your enemy and cast al-wahn into your hearts.” Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah, what is al-wahn?” He replied, “Love of this dunya and hatred of death.” [An authentic hadith recorded by Abu Dawud and Ahmad]
Just as the Prophet ﷺ predicted, the people have indeed summoned one another to attack us just as someone invites others to share their food. In this hadith, the Prophet ﷺ also describes us as becoming like the froth on the water. If you watch waves flowing in the ocean, you’ll see that the thin layer of froth on the top is completely weightless and with little substance; the slightest breeze can destroy it. It does not even have enough power to determine its own course. Instead, it goes wherever the water carries it.
This is our condition, as the Prophet ﷺ described it, but we must return to the question of why. The Prophet ﷺ gives a clear answer for this question. He explains that the hearts will be filled with wahn. When asked about this word’s meaning, the Prophet ﷺ responded with a few words that hold a truth deep in meaning. He said it was “love of this dunya (world) and hatred of death.” The Prophet ﷺ here is describing a people who have become so completely engrossed in this life that it has made them selfish, materialistic, short-sighted, and heedless of their meeting with Allah. He is describing a people who have become so worldly that they have lost their moral character.
It is within the realm of this moral character that the condition of any people will change—either from good to bad or from bad to good. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) tells us, “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Qur’an, 13:11) It is, therefore, because of their character that the condition of a people can change from a world superpower to the froth on the ocean. And it is only by changing the hearts and character that what was once only froth on the ocean can once again become strong.
Hence, we as Muslims should never lose hope. The help is promised by Allah (swt), but the job is ours. Allah (swt) reminds us of this in the Qur’an when He says: “So do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are [true] believers.” (3:139)
It is only by our sincere faith and our striving that Allah (swt) will ever change our condition. So for the sake of those bleeding in Palestine today, we, as an ummah, need to wake up and return to Allah.