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So Where Are You Going?

November 11, 2008

So apparently there was an election last week, and an African American man with the middle name of Hussein—the same as the Prophet’s grandson and also the now-deceased dictator of Iraq, how’s that for the definition of irony—will now be the leader of these United States.

Historically, this is an amazing event, one that was unimaginable for much of American history, unthinkable for African Americans and minorities who have seen the worst sides of racism and pure hatred… yet, ironically, an accomplishment that is undeniably American as well. We are privileged to have seen such a fascinating historical event, and the significance of this cannot be overstated.

But what does this mean exactly? I have read the opinions of many American Muslims and seen their reactions encompassing the full gamut from pure joy to sheer dread—and everything in between. There are those who are hailing him as the messiah or the Mahdi, come at last to restore goodness to the world; and then there are those who are declaring him to be predecessor to the Antichrist himself.

The bigger realization that American Muslims must quickly accept and embrace is to understand this election as being historically significant—and nothing more. We didn’t win anything. Why are we so giddy? We can feel proud to witness history, but let us not make the mistake of feeling proud that we had anything to do with this or can share in this accomplishment (unless of course you are African American and Muslim as well, then you can feel proud for the African-American-ness of all this).

What I don’t understand is why elections always have to have religious significance for us—why something that is the epitome of secularism has to somehow relate to religion, and when it doesn’t jive with the spiritual (of course not, how could it, it would be an oxymoron to expect it to do so!), we condemn this secular thing for being secular—as if it deceived us all this time. To relate an event like a presidential election to religion speaks volumes about our own insecurity as a people, or worse yet, our own arrogance (borne from ignorance) about the way the world works—newsflash: the world does not revolve around us, and thank God it doesn’t.

President-Elect Obama is not the messiah, nor is he the antichrist; he is a charming politician that has potential to accomplish great things, but let us not be so deluded to think or expect that he is the answer to the world’s problems—let alone the problems and challenges faced by the American Muslim community. He certainly seems better than what we had before—then again, the standard was set so low these past eight years than it wasn’t much of a challenge to outshine that—but time will tell how much of the melodious rhetoric will become reality. The Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Indeed (some speeches) from amongst speeches are pure magic”… Indeed, indeed.

We’ve seen this story before, just eight years ago when we were promised peace in the Middle East and believed it. It’s time we looked at politics, something that is purely secular, and began to see how it can benefit our secular side—the “American” side from American-Muslim. It’s time we learned that we should put aside our “Muslim” side in politics and not have any expectations with certain areas that will never change, such as foreign policy, but instead, as Americans, we should demand fulfillment of promises made in areas that affect us as Americans, such as the economy, healthcare reform, education, and the environment. Paradoxically (and this is subtle, so pay attention), only by doing so will we find ourselves benefiting as Americans, which will benefit us as Muslims as well.

The bigger issue is to ask ourselves that same rhetorical question that God asks us in the Qur’an: “So where are you going?” I was amazed to see so many Muslims get so energized about the Obama campaign and the elections—which is great, but if we’re able to generate that sort of energy for the secular, where is that energy when it comes time for the religious? Where is that hype when it comes time for people to come to Friday prayers? Where is that same joy when it comes time to mobilize ourselves to help out the latest area in the world that has been hit with flood/famine/civil war/insert disaster of choice here. Where is that energy when it comes time to get excited about making it to the masjid for taraweeh for 30 nights? I mean, we’re able to generate energy, so it’s not an issue of being unable to do it—it’s an issue of being able to direct that energy towards loftier purposes as well as the mundane.

So where are we going? Regardless of who won the election, we are still going towards where we were always headed: our appointed meeting with our Lord. Nothing has changed, and nothing will ever change that. We generated a lot of energy these past few months—either in support of or against a candidate or the election in general.

Now the election is over, and the future awaits. Choosing a Cabinet is Obama’s first order of business, whereas separating and prioritizing our goals as American and as Muslims is ours.

We need to figure out where we are going as Americans and where we are going as Muslims—and act accordingly if we plan on getting there.

  1. lt786 permalink

    good post…jazak’Allah khair for the ittar…it’s about time…

  2. Fahim permalink

    Shukran Bro, I’m linking my friends to this, inshaAllah. Timely reminder.

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