Head in my hands, I collapse, blinking back my tears. Oh Allah, how could this be happening? It feels like all the hope has been ripped from the world. In the past year we have witnessed the USA choose for their leader a man who founded his campaigns on lies, accusations and hateful sentiments towards minority groups. We saw innocent children die in Syria, countless people massacred in Burma and endless suffering all over the world. How did we get here?

The world is supposed to be progressing forward towards greater tolerance and inclusivity. Right now it feels like there is no compassion, no empathy, and no hope, only hatred and anger and pain. All I see is despair with no way out – and there is nothing I can do about it. I feel so overwhelmed – I need to clear my mind.

I go for a long walk along the edge of Lake Ontario and as I sit on a large rock, the calm, peaceful and serene landscape calms my heart. I love this spot, with the waves crashing into the rocks, the wind blowing through my hijab, and the sunshine glimmering on the water. I grab a flat stone, holding it just as my grandfather taught me, and launch it across the surface of the water. Mesmerized, I watch small waves unfold into bigger ripples in the water as the stone bounces over and over again, and I fall into a daze.

I feel so hopeless, so helpless, so small. But when I think about it, change always seems to start off as something small. One drop in an ocean can ripple into a wave. I remember learning about chemical pathways in our nervous system: something as simple as jerking our hand away from a hot surface is due to a single stimulant reaching our fingertips to trigger a signalling cascade within our bodies. In school we are taught about historical revolutions that changed the world, and they always seemed to be instigated by individuals, regular people with passion and a dream.

Even Islam started as something small. The beloved Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Islam began as something strange and will go back to being strange, so glad tidings to the strangers” (Sunan Ibn Majah). Indeed, we do live in a time when faith in God is seen as something weird and illogical. Similar sentiments of being ‘outsiders’ were felt by the followers of Islam: when the Prophet (PBUH) brought forth the message of Islam to his people, he faced immense opposition and hardships.

For example, when he approached the leaders of Taif with this message, the Prophet (PBUH) was ignored, mocked by the leaders, and chased out of town by people pelting stones at him. When the angels came and asked him if in return they should destroy the city of Taif, despite his bloodied back, the Prophet (PBUH) refused. The mercy in his heart for people made him instead pray for their future generations to submit to God.

We learn something special and important from this: instead of the response to the negative actions towards us rippling into more negative actions, we should follow our Prophet’s example of mercy, love and forgiveness.

Once we realize the power we hold of changing our societies, simply on this basis of empathy and compassion, we realize that even one person can make a big change. Bigger social changes start from small efforts that bring people together and encourage conversation to promote understanding and acceptance.

Young minds should take on this challenge to change their communities, and in fact, they already are! Recently in Kingston, a group of Muslim teenage girls came together to organize an Islamophobia workshop at a Youth Diversity Conference.  They reached out to their fellow peers about the many misconceptions that are spread through the media about Islam. This single effort of theirs was so successful and effective that they were invited to speak to different audiences, including a class of teacher candidates at Queen’s University and a Social Justice class at St. Lawrence College. The wave of positive change by the youth is already unfolding; one ripple unfolding many more.

A cool breeze sends a shiver through me and I open my eyes, not realizing how deeply I had been lost in my thoughts. The sky has turned a brilliant pink, illuminated by the sun’s rays as the sun creeps below the horizon, telling me that it’s almost Maghrib time. With my heart at peace, my mind focused and my soul reenergized, I head home feeling content and emboldened, knowing that whatever happens is meant to happen, by the All-Knowing’s decree. Our role is to get involved in positive ways to create positive change – the rest is up to fate.

This article was published in our March 2017 issue of MY Voice Magazine. For more articles like this, subscribe today!