What does it mean to be a Muslim in the 21st Century?
Islam is a religion founded over 1400 years ago. An illiterate trader in Mecca spread the message of God to an unwilling audience. His message appealed to many, especially those disenfranchised by the society of this time. Eventually, his message of peace and belief in one God gained a large following and after overcoming many adversities became the dominant religion in the region.
As the arrow of time marched on, Islam continued spreading to the far corners of the world. Indeed the message initially sent to the Arabs in Mecca became a uniting ideology for a diverse group of people around the world.
Today Muslims come from every walk of life and exist in every strata of society. Indeed the challenges of 21st century are completely different for different groups of Muslims. There is, however, a united identity surrounding a connection to its message even in its various interpretations.
Indeed the modern age is an increasingly challenging time. Muslims around the world face a multitude of issues. Increasing inequality, racism and Islamophobia plague Muslims in an array of fashions. Indeed the highly individualized world of today has increasingly isolated us. Islam in the modern age can thus be a way to reclaim a community as well as a way in which to understand yourself better.
The tolls of the modern world can be very taxing on the individual. Capitalism’s drive for productivity can seriously affect our mental health. Indeed the pressures placed upon us by society and even by ourselves can affect our self-esteem. Indeed while therapy and professional help are incredibly important, Islam can help us forgive and accept ourselves.
“Truly God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (Qur’an 13:11).
However to forgive ourselves does not mean to accept our sins. Instead Allah although merciful, still wants us to fulfill our potential and to serve him. As the old Dervish saying goes, to serve the creator is to serve creation. Thus, we can at once reconcile our actions as individuals while also attempting to serve Allah.
Indeed we must come to understand our position within the world. What is the role we play within the institutions that cause so much harm to the world. Within this analysis of ourselves we are bound to discover that much of our existence might be causing harm to others. However, this is also when it is vital to remember that God is Al-Rahman and Al-Raheem, the most forgiving and the most merciful. Indeed Allah has been known to forgive the most heinous of acts just with an act of sincere repentance. It is unfruitful for us to face the painful truths of our existence with guilt. Sincere repentance is not aimed at absolution of guilt, but rather an act in which we recognized our reality and choose to improve upon it. Thus, it is important for us to be able to forgive ourselves and continue to seek ways in which we can be better and serve God better.
Indeed one of the ways in which we can be better is to serve our community. The prophet often preached of the importance of ensuring the security of the Ummah. Serving our community and ensuring their safety and prosperity can be of utmost importance. Indeed as the fastest growing religion, uniting Muslims around the world around a singular identity of the Ummah can improve the lives of many. Working to help our co-religionists can create a sense of community which would become a support system to mitigate and help you through the multitude of issues affecting Muslims today.
It is also important for us to recognize the diverse world we live in and practice the tolerance that was preached to us. “For you is your religion and for me is my religion.” Quran 109:06. As Muslims it is important for us to understand that we live in a pluralistic society and that many of our non-Muslim friends are undergoing the same problems as we are in the modern world. Many of them are even sympathetic to the problems specific to Muslims and can be allies to us.
The modern world brings us many challenges. But Islam gives us a way to rationalize our own existences. It also gives us an opportunity to build communities and find a way in which we can serve God by serving each other.