COLLEGE PARK, MD –
The day of ‘Ashura’ is right upon us.
It is a day with much significance and I encourage all to research its history. A common thread throughout many of the epic events that underpin the day is sacrifice for Truth.
This is very relevant given the sometimes confusing social justice (or lack thereof) platforms arising today and how they fit (or don’t fit) into Prophetic teachings.
One major topic being discussed currently in social justice circles is how to deal with privilege. All of us have certain privileges that make certain aspects of our lives facilitated in ways others do not share.
What is one to do with that fact? Do we renounce our privilege? Do we indulge in it?
I would answer “no” to both of those options. We need a scenario in which we make full use of the potential we have been blessed with by our privilege, but, in fulfilling our potential, lift others up and contribute to a more balanced, just and true society.
Renunciation leads to unfulfilled potential and indulgence leads to putting others further down and a less balanced, just and true society.
As many of our righteous and illustrious forebears exhibited on ‘Ashura’, I believe the most effective way to deal with our privilege is to sacrifice it.
As always, the best example to look to is our Master Muhammad, peace upon him.
He was born into the most respected tribe of the Arabs. He was arguably the most respected member of his most respected tribe. It was not unreasonable to believe he would one day be the chief of the tribe, peace upon him.
His privilege, essentially, set him up to one day be the leader of the Arabs.
He, peace upon him, could have contributed to maintaining the status quo to ensure that his likely future place as a rich, powerful and influential leader would remain uncompromised.
But, instead, with his privilege, and the protection and clout that it offered him, he called to the truth of Oneness and goodness.
Obviously, those with an interest in maintaining the oppressive status quo that was materially working out for them didn’t appreciate his call. They made it clear that the Prophet, peace upon him, was no longer a welcome kinsman, let alone being in contention to take over the reigns of their tribe.
By deciding to stay true to the message he was made to deliver, our beloved and courageous Prophet, upon him peace, sacrificed the privilege his noble lineage offered him.
Something interesting happens when one sacrifices, however.
A sacrifice is not a loss, and it is always compensated; what goes around comes around. A sacrifice usually entails giving up superficial success in exchange for temporary hardship. Eventually, real success is the result.
Sacrifice is the process by which one trades the superficial for the real. Temporary, proactively accepted hardship is the price by which that trade is made.
Our Prophet, peace upon him, sacrificed his privilege as a noble member of the most noble tribe of the Arabs. He very well could have been the leader of Arab society – a society rife with injustice. Complying with that injustice would have been necessary for the superficial success his privilege afforded him.
Instead, he, peace upon him, stood for Truth and justice and willingly, consciously sacrificed his privilege for the hardships that ensued.
When it was all said and done he was still the leader of the Arabs he was always in line to be.
What he was not in line for was the exponential success he achieved through his sacrifice: one quarter of human beings on Earth hold him as their leader and beloved – Arabs and non-Arabs alike – over 1400 years later.
But instead of that leadership being predicated upon injustice, he put in the work and accepted the toil that was required to do it by Truth. Peace upon him!
None of that took calculation, careerism or love of rank. It was the natural result of a man who sacrificed his privilege for Truth.
This ‘Ashura’ I urge us all to reflect on this concept and how so many of those who paved the way for us today – from Prophets like Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, peace upon them all, to companions like ‘Uthman, ‘Ali, Hasan and Husayn, God be pleased with them, to more recent luminaries like al-Hajj Malik al-Shabazz aka Malcolm X – sacrificed their privilege.
I urge us to reflect on how they didn’t renounce their privilege and squander it nor indulge in it and further the injustices of their time.
They, instead, sacrificed their privilege. They gave it up for a time and accepted unbelievable hardship and toil in exchange – until real success was granted and their potential was truly achieved.
Superficiality wasn’t good enough for them, they wanted to succeed in reality. And succeed they really did.