The One Thing You Can Change
I pray this post finds you in the best of health and iman. I’m writing this with a heart that’s heavy because we are in the final days of this Blessed Month. I’m sad that this month is coming to an end but I’m also grateful that Allāh has allowed me to experience yet another Ramadhan.
As you may know: I’m back on Twitter with the intention to share things which have benefited me such as articles, videos, podcasts and many more. My account won’t be used as a ‘social’ tool otherwise it’ll distract me from my original intention.
Funny story about my experience with Twitter: I used to be a very active tweeter back in uni but deleted it after graduating. As a journalist, Twitter is one of the most useful tools to crowdsource information and to find contacts for your stories.
I was a very keen writer on socio-politics back in uni and the people I followed and interacted with were of the more argumentative and opinionated kind. I used to be very impressed with people who could hold down an argument as I associated that with intelligence and confidence: two things which I felt I lacked in.
Fast forward 7 years later, I really don’t enjoy being around argumentative and cynical people. I cannot be around people who are condescending, bitter and have something negative to say about everyone and everything. Sometimes, it even gives me a panic attack.
Imagine my shock when I decided to look through the tweets of accounts that I used to follow diligently 7-8 years ago. Uneasiness flooded my whole body as I read each tweet from the same people I use to admire. Some of these people are a lot more patronising than I can remember.
THEN I started to remember why I deleted my Twitter account back then:
I was getting argumentative
I was becoming a complainer and it didn’t help that I had an audience
I was quick to retweet anything without thinking of the consequences
I was always looking for faults in others
I became stressed out and low-spirited over issues I had no control over
I was living in a toxic bubble shaped by all the negative and one-sided information I was consuming everyday
Last night, I read a twitter thread mocking Malays/Muslims which upset me. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for well-intended, constructive criticism as no community is free from wrongdoings, but these were just insults and blanket statements—I won’t go into details what was said.
In a way, I felt sad for the people on that thread. There are over 18 million Muslims living in Malaysia; if not a single Muslim has helped to clear their doubts or negative sentiments towards Islam and Muslims, then we Muslims aren’t being good ambassadors to our religion.
Secondly, it’s also clear that they have chosen to stick to a narrative which continues to support their ignorance and hatred because let’s face it, it’s a much easier route.
Professor Syed Naquib Al-Attas says that knowledge can be corrupted due to ignorance of two kinds. The first, simple ignorance, can be fixed through continual clarification i.e education. However, the second kind of ignorance, compounded ignorance, is more difficult to fix because the one who suffers from it is unaware of being in such a condition.
Compounded ignorance is a condition that keeps on growing; those with compounded ignorance will keep on feeding their ignorance until it becomes difficult to reverse. They will continue to grow in arrogance and it’ll blind them from the truth.
7 years ago, I could have easily become the people that I dislike now. I could have easily stayed on Twitter and continued to actively find more things which supported a depressing view of the world I’ve created for myself.
But I didn’t: I wanted to change. I wanted to understand the complexities of the world from a more balanced standpoint. I wanted to be less cynical and actually be more useful instead of being part of the negativity which I despise until this day.
There ARE 3 key lessons which I learnt:
You can’t change anyone else but yourself. You can’t control what others think or do; you can only control what YOU think and do.
Focus on what you can change not what you can’t.
You can’t change how others view you but you can change the way you view others, which is with more compassion.
The best of us have at one point fallen into a state of hopelessness as a result of wanting the world to change for us and failing.
We get frustrated with difficult people, difficult relationships and all the ugliness we see in the world. What frustrates us is the inability to change the world around us to our liking.
When people don’t behave the way we want them to…
When the society we live in do not live according to our ideals…
When people believe something hurtful about us or the things and people we care about…
All the above are upsetting but they don’t have to render us into a permanent state of hopelessness. In two separate talks I attended, one by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and the other by Prof Wan Mohd Nor, they stressed that a mu’min (believer) doesn’t lose hope.
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf went as far as to say it’s haram for a Muslim to lose hope because when you do, you’re essentially saying that you’ve lost trust in Allāh to handle all your affairs. When you lose hope, you fail to acknowledge Allāh’s power over all things.
I was also reminded of how important it is to have hope in people and view them with the eyes of rahmat (mercy). During the times of the Prophet ﷺ, people used to abuse and mock him, and his companions would ask why He didn’t just pray for a calamity to befall unto them. He ﷺ refused because he had hope that the next generation would become believers and that Allāh would forgive those who have wronged him.
One of the triumphs of Ramadhan to those who embrace it with good intentions, is discovering just how capable we are in overcoming our desires. It has taught me that while there are so many things beyond our control, there is one thing we can control and that is our own self.
When we are too occupied with what is wrong with the world, it distracts us from all the work we should be putting into ourselves. So, if like me, you’re easily affected by negativity, keep your heart busy with continuous self-improvement.