By Shabina S. Khatri
Let’s face it. Whether it be nicotine, caffeine, ice cream, exercise, television or sleep, addictions are hard to kick. That’s largely because old habits die hard, psychologically speaking. In other words, it’s not our bodies that have trouble letting go so much as our minds and hearts.
Take my addiction to chocolate, for example, or your addiction to pop. Yes, perhaps abstaining from these foods after consuming them so regularly would prompt a temporary chemical imbalance in our bodies. But it’s not like foregoing these treats would cause us to curl up and die. Rather, it’s our heart’s attachment and our mind’s perception that we can’t live without Hershey’s Kisses or Pepsi that keep us addicted and stuck in our ways.
Similarly, our community’s addiction to the status quo (a.k.a. aversion to change) is the perfect example of mind overpowering matter. Add to that our addiction to money and we’ve got quite the quandary on our hands. Let’s take our fundraising efforts as an example. How do Muslims generally try to raise money? By holding dinners, of course.
The formula is predictable: mix one part speaker (energy not required) and four tons ethnic food (seasoned to taste). Fold in several pleas for money (awkward pauses accepted) and sprinkle the evening liberally with Quranic ayat and ahadith. Simmer in an unheated or un-air-conditioned room for 3.5 hours and presto, we have a fundraiser. Actually, it seems like all we have is a recipe that has grown stale from repeated use.
The truth is, most people leave fundraisers bored to tears and, if the strapped-for-cash organization is lucky, (a little) less rich than before. This is a serious problem, and to get out of the rut, community members are going to have to kick two habits – aversion to change and love of money. Both are afflictions of the heart, just like aversion to hard work and love of speech, and both must be eradicated by treating the root cause – fear.
Yes, the tried-and-true dinner formula is safe and brings in a few bucks. But creativity, though it might involve risk, can pay off in a big way. And it’s not like the change from sit-down dinner
to lively auction or benefit walk-a-thon will kill us. Now, on to parting with our money.
Alhumdulillah, ours is a community of many well-to-do professionals. Unlike much of our brethren overseas, we never have to worry about having food in our stomachs, shelter over our heads or clothing on our backs. Our troubles don’t even involve attracting people to Islam or our masajids – rather, we must worry about finding a place to hold all our new members! SubhanAllah, what a great problem to have.
Bottom line: To build the infrastructure necessary to support our burgeoning communities, we need money. We all know how much the Prophet (SAW) abhorred miserliness, but instead of dwelling on whether Sister X or Brother Y fits the description of the penny pinchers that Islam condemns, let’s look at our money problem in the context of our status quo addiction. No doubt, all of us have given for the sake of Allah (SWT). But many of us tire of giving without seeing the tangible fruit of that money. So it’s not a fear of being broke but a fear of wasting cash that keeps our wallets at bay.
This is where the other addiction comes in – though our needs have changed, our strategies have not. Why? Out of respect for the way things were done in the past. But this is silly. A modified course of action should not be seen as a slap in the face to older generations, but rather as a credit to their leadership abilities in training a new crop of dynamic thinkers.
Thus, to kick both addictions, we’re going to have to start brainstorming ways to fundraise and to better manage the funds we receive. That means stepping outside of the box and leaving the comfortable parameters of familiar methodologies. That means opening up discussion on what should be done and not scoffing or intimidating newcomers into silence. And that means consciously fighting our addiction to ego as well.
To implement this call to creativity on a community-wide basis may seem overwhelming. But it’s not so scary if we all agree to individually try this effort out on our own selves first. Let’s face it. Whether it be gossiping, cheating, driving or playing video games, addictions are hard to kick.
But remember that a true believer strives never to bow to his own nafs. And there’s a bonus: ridding your heart of any attachments will not only benefit your community, but also give you a spiritual high like you’ve never imagined, inshAllah.