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Open letter to the new Muslim graduates 31 May 2010

Posted by MOZAFFAR in Misc.

Assalamu Alaykum my beloved Sisters and Brothers,

I hope this letter finds you in the best of health, spirits and iman.  I hope to join your many loved ones and friends in expressing that we are each very proud of you in your accomplishments.  As we call this moment “commencement” we wait and pray in anticipation of your future feats.  Those feats might be accomplishments that bring benefit to your society. They might be accomplishments that bring benefit to your loved ones.

For some of you, this milestone has been an expected stopping point toward a destination in the seemingly distant future.  For some of you, this milestone has been *the* destination, after a long road of apparently insurmountable odds.

And that is one of the natures of life, that you will face obstacles.  This is a promise.  We are often taught to work hard with the goal of attaining a life of ease.  We are taught that the most successful people are those who worked exceptionally hard yesterday and now are able to have an exceptionally easy today.  This point is wrong.  Consistently, those at the top are the hardest workers.

Rather, I will respectfully suggest that you take a different approach: rather than work toward a life of ease, work hard toward a life of service.  So, for the lot of you seeking professions in the medical field for the sake of finding ease in life (by way of the perceptions that wealth gives ease), seek a career of service.  For those of you seeking career advice, part of my advice is that you seek a career that involves some sort of service.  Service does require effort. Service is also often thankless.  But, service is perhaps more curative than for the ills of the heart than you might realize.

Understand, further, that your life will include failures.  That is the nature of life.  My point here is that there is no need to fear failures as some sort of statement of doom.  Look at such events in an objective sense, looking to figure out where to go from there.  Meaning, do not let your failures define you; use them to enrich you.  Indeed, that is easier said than done.  We will have remorse in our lives. So, rather than look at failures as “failures,” look at them as struggles. Sometimes you are hit with struggle because you have fallen short, sometimes you are hit with struggle because of misconduct, and sometimes you are hit with struggles because of forces far beyond your control.  But, you most definitely will be hit with struggles.

Nevertheless, you will not be hit with struggles that you cannot bear.  That is a promise.  Struggles are exactly what we call them: struggles.  But, the promise is not only that we can bear the struggles that we have been hit with, but that they will be followed with ease, and perhaps even a double ease.  The challenge then, when hit with struggle, is to persevere with fortitude to the world beyond that struggle.

But you will at times be hit with struggles that you do not want to fight.  You will sometimes be hit with a murky depression that — like warm quicksand — drowns you, though you insist on using it as a blanket.  You will at times be hit with moments that cast a dark shadow over your world.  You will sometimes be hit with moments when love from others could have helped you stand, but instead you feel thoroughly abandoned.  And, even in those moments, you must pull from the whole of your strength to figure out your first step and take that first step. Not because you can, because you can.  But, because we want you to.

But all of the above is only prologue.  The above paragraphs stand only as reminders in case you need them.

You inherit a world that is complicated more than simple, frightening more than hopeful, impossible.  You inherit a world where noise covers the eyes, the ears, and the heart.  You inherit a world perfectly suited to your skills; it is a world you can manage.  Meaning, my generation might not be able to conquer your world, but yours can.  And, there are countless others counting on you.  We are counting on you not to conquer the world, but to simply manage.  The question to my generation is: will we help you, or will we choose to be as self absorbed in our petty singularities as generations often are?  The question to your generation: will you do the same?

You carry the weight of a transition on your shoulders.  The Muslim Community in the West finds itself at a crossroads.  We’ve been at this crossroads for over a generation, though now it seems that we are actually moving in a particular direction. There are those outside of our community claiming that we are struggling for the soul our religion, believing that we need some sort of reformation to stay modern.  They are wrong.  The decentralized nature of our tradition ensures that we are in a constant process of reform, but modernity is not the answer when all of the good *and* bad of modernity is included.

Rather, we are struggling for the soul of our souls.  Our era is a battle, not for the soul of our religion, but a battle for control of our own hearts.  We are confronted — the very least — with so much noise that it is so easy to forget the esteemed visions we carry in our hearts.  But, we are confronted with far more than that.  We are confronted with an environment of digital media that pretends to be as real as the longing in our hearts, commanding that we hand over the best of our time and will. The problem then is that we forget our selves, by wasting our time.  God is already forgotten, and thus would we forgot our selves as quickly.

The problem is that religion as of late has itself been the obstacle to this path, when it is otherwise meant to be the facility.  Religion itself is to be the path to connect with the Divine, yet itself is often the obstacle.  Yours is a generation that has far more knowledge of the tradition than did mine, yet for all the increase in knowledge, there is a complimentary decrease in any ability to make use of that immense knowledge. What is lost in the process is a knowledge of the content of the Divine text itself, as a path to the Divine Himself.

I mentioned that the Muslim Community in the West is moving in a particular direction.  The choice was to be a body of servants of the Divine, seeking to uplift society by way of social justice OR to be a tribe, seeking to taking on the parasitic movements of exploiting our societies of their resources without seeking to build.  Meaning, our choice was to either take the route of service or the route of self-centeredness.  And, we have been moving toward the latter.

Thus, my advice to you is simple.  Use the best of your abilities in service.  Service to Him, to your society, to your world.  Your generation will come and go, and it is up to you to decide if the world you are bequeathing will be better or worse than the world you are inheriting. It is for your to decide if you will obsess over your own frailties or if you will help others in theirs.

Thus, the path that I call you to, dear esteemed graduates, is the path of the Prophets, may peace be upon them, and their companions, may God be pleased with them.  The path to serve society involves selflessness.  The path to the Divine involves self-less-ness.  Again, my dear brothers and sisters, I call you to service, if at the very least, for your own sakes.

And Allah knows best.

Your brother,

Omer M



1. usm - 23 June 2010

I graduated last year, and wish that somebody had written this to me then. This is truly beautiful, very poignant. I pray that Allah swt allows us to use all our talents and skills in His service. JZK

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