International Affairs

Palestine: an Unspeakable Tragedy and the Condition of Our Ummah

300027175_83f6eee061_oI 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.

About the author

Yasmin Mogahed

Yasmin Mogahed

Yasmin Mogahed received her B.S. Degree in Psychology and her Masters in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing her graduate work, she taught Islamic Studies and served as the Sisters’ Youth Director for the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. She also worked as a writing instructor for Cardinal Stritch University, and a staff columnist for the Islam section of InFocus News. Currently she’s an independent media consultant and a writer for the Huffington Post, where she focuses most of her work on spiritual and personal development. Her written works, including a book chapter on the portrayal of Islam post-911, have appeared in print and online publications worldwide.

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  • This is so true. Many of us expect victory while we do nothing but obsess about the dunya. We cannot even boycott products or companies that we know are complicit in this tragedy- we only do so when it becomes fashionable. Allah al-musta3aan.

    • I absolutely agree with you Jinan, I feel the exact same way. I prefer not to make the issue of Palestine as a Jews vs Muslim thing because that kind of polarisation helps nobody, I look at it as a violation of human rights and a complete disregard to the value of human life. But this is exactly why we as muslims need to stand up to this atrocity.
      I was so annoyed with some of my facebook friends who on the day of the Flotilla attack dedicated their statuses “to the poor people of Palestine”, what use is that if you continue to finance the companies who support these butchers? The people of Palestine don’t need our sympathy, they need us to do something! BDS is the best place to start.

      • I agree that there is no point sympathising if we still indirectly contribute to empowering the oppressors, not even because we lack choice ourselves, but just because we can’t be bothered to examine our actions and can’t bear to lose some convenience or prestige.

        But I also think this is not applicable just to Palestine – the effect on the issue of Palestine should spring from a more general Muslim ethic. It should also show in a Muslim’s reluctance to buy from companies that oppress their workers to make some unnecessary fashionable electronic gadget, it should show in preference for companies that buy fairly from farmers paying prices that provide a decent livelihood and family betterment, it should show in abhorrence to cruel animal testing particularly for irrelevant things like cosmetics, it should show in concern for the environment and kindness to animals and wildlife. These attributes should – of all people on Earth – show in Muslims, even when they must suffer some hardship and sacrifice for the ethical choice, because it is a matter of religion.

        We should recognise that in today’s world, every choice and act and transaction in our day-to-day life has not insignificant implications across borders and food chains. And we should try our best in mindfulness of this, to fulfil the command to walk humbly on the earth.

  • subhan Allah f`lan Allah musta`an

    what a needed article. may Allah help us all wake up and change for His sake and the sake of helping our ummah, ameen

  • Masha’Allah beautiful article

    the hadith is so appropriate– the similitude of the froth on the sea.

    currently we are just weightless as an ummah ..insha’Allah the revival will gather pace.


  • Jazak Allah Khair.

    I appreciate and salute the courage to write about this issue. We have weakened so much that we even get frightened and afraid to even talk about this open oppression and illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and the destruction of Palestinian homes, orchards, and lives,

  • please give us actual, practical steps to take right now, as soon as i turn off the TV of the news, that i can do to make a difference so our condition will change. i have no clue what to do. i pray, i fast, i try to be good, i am not doing haram. but i am sad, and our state is sad. i feel so helpless and at a loss.

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