The elderly man who was lying on the sidewalk, inhaling chemicals to dissipate the pain.


The Indigenous woman who was singing to herself and tracing the patterns on the wall with her finger.


The man who pushed me out of his way and ran into the middle of oncoming traffic. His fierce touch still lingers on my shoulder. It begs me for understanding, it is a desperate call for help.


These are memories that have left me with regret. They haunt me and they question me. There is one question in particular that is full of an urgency I hope to never forget:


“Aisha, why didn’t you do anything?”


We were waiting at a bus stop. We pretended we could not see the Indigenous woman across the street. But, we knew she was there. We saw her tracing the flower patterns on the wall of a Native family healing centre. We heard her singing. It was a song that we could not make sense of. A young Caucasian woman in front of me smirked. This made me furious. But then  I thought to myself, am I doing any better? The Indigenous woman crossed the street and sat on the sidewalk near us. Feeling that she might like drawing, I remembered I had markers in my bag. I thought of giving them to her―of speaking to her―but I didn’t.


It is easy to judge others and think they do not care, but are we doing any better by “caring” and not doing? And, do we really care if we aren’t doing anything?


“He pushed me,” my voice quivered, not out of complaint, but out of shock. We followed him with our gaze―only with our gaze―as he ran onto the road. He knocked, helplessly, on car windows and doors. “Can I get a ride?!” Not one driver looked at him. I heard myself thinking Should we do something? Eventually, I turned my gaze away and looked on ahead.


Why do we hastily move on, turning a blind eye to the signs, the warnings, the desperate calls for help? And when our absence brings great destruction, we like to say, “Never again.” “Never again,” we said after the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and after the Srebrenica genocide in 1995, as if forgetting the time we had said, “Never again,” following the Holocaust. Yet, again and again, we carelessly hasten on, ignoring the signs, the warnings, the desperate calls for help.


We are in the midst of an apathy crisis. It is as if we have become immune to tragedies and injustices in the world. The turn of our media culture into a fast-paced spectacle, showcasing tragedy after tragedy without any sight of solutions, is the driving force behind the apathy crisis. If we do make claims that we care, these claims do not seem enough to motivate us into action.


The question is, “How do we get ourselves to care in a way that motivates us into action?”


To attempt to answer this, we need to understand ourselves.


Perhaps we are so caught up in our personal problems that it becomes overwhelming to understand and feel someone else’s grief. And when we do concern ourselves with others’ suffering, we may do so in an unconstructive manner, which does not actually produce results. For example, we might only concern ourselves with matters that are “trendy” to care about, or simply to give us something to think or talk about, to satisfy an emptiness within ourselves.


There is a restlessness in our hearts. We tend to either ignore problems or dwell on them so much that we forget what is most important―searching for solutions and learning along the way. Put simply―doing.


Tony Robbins says, “Identify your problems, but give your power and energy to solutions.” We need to find a balance so that we recognize what our problems are, but we put our strength into our search for solutions―into doing.


Perhaps, we need to learn to care constructively. When we dwell on problems such as various crises around the world, we can feel as if the world’s burdens are on our shoulders. And it is okay to feel this way, but it is not a place where we should stay for long, because we can become so overwhelmed that we give up entirely and stop caring. Indeed, Allah has made us vehicles of His service, but, ultimately, He is the best of caretakers and the greatest of handholds. This certainly does not mean we should not search for solutions, but it means knowing that not all the solutions are in our hands, and this is okay―this serves to humble us, to lift our spirits.


To learn to care constructively, we can observe the lives of the prophets of Islam. The prophets were people of empathy. When they concerned themselves with others’ suffering, it was not because that was what everyone else was concerning themselves with at the moment, nor was it simply because they needed something to think or talk about. It was because they had a genuine care for people that was rooted in their love for and submission to Allah.


As Muslims, we are constantly reminded to check our intentions. Am I caring for this person out of my love for and submission to Allah? If I was, perhaps it would have been easier for me to approach the Indigenous woman or to do something useful for the man who ran onto the road.


Isa (PBUH)* said, “Blessed is he who sees with his heart but whose heart is not in what he sees.”


Living with his (PBUH)’s advice can help us be critical thinkers and effective problem-solvers. When we see problems with our heart, we are seeing with empathy―we are seeing out of our love for and submission to Allah―but, at the same time, our hearts should not be in our problems. When we are not dwelling on problems, we are in a position where we can search for solutions and do.


*PBUH: Peace Be Upon Him

About The Author

Community Relations Coordinator

Joined MY Voice as a writer in grade 9, now a second year student at WesternU who aspires to work in mental health care. Finds meaning in painting, collecting quotes and gazing at the moon. Is unapologetically Muslim

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