Turning the Tide of History
By Azher Quader
Community Builders Chicago
Each year around this time we hear the story of Syedina Ibrahim and his son Syedina Ismail as we celebrate their legendary spirit of sacrifice and their spirit of submission that is described to us in the verses of the Qur’an. Each year we go through the routine ritual of sacrificing animals commemorating their tremendous act of submission with far too little after thought on the real meaning of either submission or of sacrifice.
Every Eid, we have a few brief minutes of listening to a timeless story, a congregational prayer that follows and then it is an hour of hugging and embracing before we are on our way to a day of food and festivities.
That routine also has become a timeless tradition. A tradition like so many other traditions has taken center stage with the real substance of the story now barely catching any attention. To be sure we sing the praises of submission and of sacrifice. That song also now part of our tradition, does make us feel good. ‘Feeling’ good seems to have somehow become more important than ‘doing’ good.
There was a time that we were a community that was focused on doing good. That was the time when our submission was complete and our sacrifice awesome. That was a time when we ruled the earth and built institutions that became the hallmarks of a glorious civilization. That was a time when we were Allah’s chosen people and His khalifas. Now we read about those times in the pages of our history and feel good about how we were. Now we are the downtrodden and the desperate. Now we are the hungry and the illiterate. Now we are powerless and poor. But it does not have to be this way.
We can turn the tide of history and regain our lost glory. For too long we have listened to the voices without, who have told us we cannot, when the voice within has been telling us we can. For too long we have settled in the comfort of mediocrity when our destiny beckons us to excellence. For much too long we have lived in the shadows of a valley while the mountain tops invite us to a more exciting life and to a higher calling. A higher calling where love and compassion abounds, where justice and fairness rules, where the barriers of race and gender prejudice do not exist. Up there, the air is much cleaner, the view is much prettier, and the living is much nicer. We can get there if we are willing to climb, to move from our comfort zones, make the sacrifices and pay the price. We need only recall that “Allah does not change the condition of a people until they first change what is in their hearts”, Quran13:11.
We have the power to change our destiny. If only we are willing to submit to His will and make the sacrifices He asks of us to make. There was a time we built a glorious civilization armed with guts and gallantry. Today we can rebuild our community through the tools of technology and the power of passion. The passion for work, the passion for knowledge and the passion for excellence. We can win back our cherished place as the chosen ones once more, if we are willing to break the chains of age old traditions that have shackled us and unleash the forces of reason and logic that have for so long remain subdued.
For all our lives we have submitted ourselves to the will of others and to archaic traditions with little connection to the conditions of our times. The message that once inspired us to travel across the globe proclaiming our faith fails to even move us to announce it to our neighbors across our backyards. It is time to get to know the will of the Divine that we have left tucked away on shelves, wrapped in velvet covers. For within its covers is the prescription for our health, our success and our salvation. When we have the desire to submit, the will of the Divine is easy enough to comprehend. If we are unwilling to submit, the message for ever will remain shrouded in the mystery of the mystical. How sad that a simple message that could inspire a desert folk, that had no education, to establish a civilization that became the envy of history, now fails to touch the sensitivities of so few among us, in spite of our learning and education.
If the life and legacy of Syedina Ibrahim is ever to become relevant to us, we will have to make this effort to understand this divine message and submit to it as he did, being willing to pay the price as he was. Otherwise there is little that can connect the spirit of his sacrifice to the ritual of the sacrifices we offer today.
May Allah accept our offerings and make us submissive to His will.