Recently I reconnected with some friends I hadn’t seen in some time – friends I had originally met through Islamic work in the community while in university. An unexpected comment by one of these friends struck me – “You used to be so involved in da’wah and doing things for the community back in the day! Would be so nice to see you back to it”
I sort of laughed to myself when I heard this as I thought for a moment she was joking. And then… I realized she was quite serious. It was odd to me as I know that – if anything – my involvement and commitment, and hours invested in da’wah has increased exponentially over the years. Alhamdullilah – truly all praise and goodness comes from Allah (SWT) and I am so blessed to be a part of this work. And yet, she truly thought I had left da’wah work entirely.
For a moment after hearing this comment, I felt my ego and pride took a bit of a hit.
“My life is committed to and revolves around da’wah – it’s my way of life and what I feel is my mission in life. How could she say I left this work!? I invest more hours now than I did before! Does she not realize how much I do”
About 30 seconds later, I felt such a deep sense of shame and disappointment that these thoughts came to my mind. Why did it matter what she thought? Was I doing this for people to see and notice? Did my work only ‘count’ if others acknowledged it, saw it, or somehow validated that it was worthy?
Of course not.
I took a moment to reflect before responding to her comment, and in that moment of reflection, realized something.
My involvement was not on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or in front of cameras more generally. Nobody was capturing it – in a worldly sense. For a moment, it felt like that my efforts didn’t matter unless they were memorialized in some way for people to see and witness.
Unfortunately, in modern-day society, this seems to be how our community assesses who is ‘involved’ and ‘doing work’ – how many snaps, tags, articles, or photo ops you appear in. And that’s a scary state of affairs. There is no doubt that this approach and mentality can infect and destroy what may have initially begun as a truly pure and solid intention. If our ‘niyyah’ or intention is corrupted, what do we have left? There is so much danger in this subhanAllah, and it’s not something new we face necessary as a community, but perhaps more rampant today in the wake of social media.
This situation reminded me of a particularly powerful hadith related to those who show off or do good for the sake of people rather than purely for the sake of Allah (SWT).
The Prophet (SAW) said:
When the Day of Resurrection comes, Allah, may He be blessed and exalted, will come down to judge between His slaves, and every nation will be kneeling. The first ones to be called forth will be a man who learned the Qur’an by heart, a man who fought for the sake of Allah, and a man who had a lot of wealth. Allah will say to the Qur’an-reader, Did I not teach you that which I revealed to My Messenger? He will say, Yes, O Lord. He will say, What did you do with that which I taught you? He will say, I used to read it night and day. Allah will say to him, You have lied, and the angels will say to him, You have lied. Allah will say, Rather you wanted it to be said that So and so is a reader of Quraan, and that is what was said. Then the wealthy man will be brought forth, and Allah will say to him, Did I not give you ample provision so that I did not leave you in need of anybody? He will say, Yes, O Lord. He will say, What did you do with that which I gave you? He will say, I used to uphold the ties of kinship and give in charity. Allah will say to him, You have lied, and the angels will say to him, You have lied. Allah will say, Rather you wanted it to be said that So and so is generous, and that is what was said. Then the one who was killed for the sake of Allah (apparently) will be brought forth and Allah will say to him, Why were you killed? He will say, I was commanded to fight in Jihaad (battle) for Your sake, so I fought until I was killed. Allah will say to him, You have lied, and the angels will say to him, You have lied. Allah will say, You wanted it to be said that So and so was courageous, and that is what was said. Then the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) struck my knee and said, O Abu Hurayrah, these three are the first of the creation of Allah who will be dragged into the Fire on the Day of Resurrection.”
Narrated and classed as hasan (sound) by al-Tirmidhi, 2382; classed as saheeh by Ibn Hibbaan, 408, and Ibn Khuzaymah, 2482.
Reflecting on this hadith, I can’t help but worry.
Worry about myself. My family. My close friends. My fellow da’ees and all those working tirelessly in community. One of the most difficult tasks as a Muslim is to keep your intention pure and uncorrupted, and yet we focus so little of our energy on it.
There’s this common adage today – “If it’s not on Facebook, did it even happen?”
Sadly today, that seems to be the case with our da’wah work. Unless there are a dozen or so photos capturing every ‘meaningful’ moment, a trendy hashtag, or a moving montage or video, the work is not acknowledged, important, or worthy. In the minds of many, it simply didn’t happen.
Have we forgotten that Allah (SWT) is Al ‘Aleem- the All- Knowing? That He, ‘azza wa jaal is Al Baseer – the All-Seeing? Have we forgotten about the angels with us at all times, the Kiraman Katibeen, or Honourable Scribes, who are writing down every single thing we say or do? EVERYTHING.
“While you are certainly observed by vigilant, honourable angels, recording everything. They know whatever you do” (Qur’an 82: 10-12)
No Insta-worthy photo or video of your deeds will ever capture the true extent and depth of our work and efforts.
These verses are a powerful reminder that we are ever-watched and will ultimately be accountable by the One who not only sees and hears everything that we do, but knows the state of our heart with each and every deed. This reality brings both immense comfort and significant fear to my heart and mind as someone who has chosen to make Islam and da’wah the centre and foundation of my life.
The men described in the striking hadith noted before achieved milestones that I could only dream and pray to ever achieve. And yet, their final abode would be Hellfire because they desired and sought accolades and acknowledgement from the people, not Allah (SWT).
If such seemingly pious people can have this type of a wretched ending, what about me? What will I have to answer to Allah (SWT)? Will I too be called a liar on that day? It comes down to a very simple, yet critical question – Which is more important for you: Dunya or Akhirah? If you have to choose, which do you prefer – the creation or the Creator?
This dunya is temporary in nature – and that is truer today than perhaps any other time in history. We live in a world of bite-size content, limited attention spans, and chasing the next big thing – All. The. Time. So, guess what? That trendy hashtag, perfectly curated content, amazing photo op, or Insta-worthy captured moment will be long forgotten soon enough. In the days, months, years, and decades to come, our deeds will ultimately be forgotten by the people of this world. But, never by Allah (SWT).
“And never is your Lord forgetful…” (Qur’an, 19:64)
Take comfort in this AND take heed – focus on the One who never forgets and never wavers. The One who is Ever-Living, All-Seeing, All-Hearing, and the Most Just. The One who will reward you beyond measure, whether someone witnessed, saw, and acknowledged what you did or not. Shield yourself from the dangers of this dunya by protecting your heart and your akhirah.
As I sit here reflecting on these lessons and powerful ayat and ahadith, I feel somewhat relieved by that sister’s comments now.
She has no idea what I do – And Alhamdullilah for that. It is truly such a blessing to be unseen and unnoticed by the creation of this world. It is ultimately safer for my intention, my ego, my iman and – critically, the state of my heart.