Peace be with you!
Malcolm X once famously said, “If you don’t stand up for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Finding the courage however to do that is hard. It is hard to stand up for that something you believe in, to put yourself behind an idea. An idea that may cost you your livelihood, your job, your financial security, your family, friends and indeed your life.
Exactly that however is what Allah (swt.) asks of us, as He (swt.) records the advice that our Prophet Luqman (as.) gave to his son in the Qur’an.
“O my son establish prayer, enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong and be patient over what befalls you. Indeed all that is of the matter requiring determination (courage)” [Quran 31:17]
Remember that trepidation you felt, when you established the prayer in a public place? That fear-excitement cocktail of adrenaline rushing through your body, the creeping thoughts of what the passerby might think?
As you stand up for the prayer wherever you are, you stand up for Allah, for your right to exercise your Belief. This fundamental act, will give you the courage to stand up for what is right, for truth and justice and against what is wrong.
Courage according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Courage comes from the heart, quite literally, the word coeur in French meaning heart from the Latin Cor.
Our heart is in constant flux, it continuously pumps blood in and out and on a spiritual, metaphysical level it also keeps changing. Khushoo, Taqwa, Iman, our intentions all of these according to our tradition are within our heart and increase and decrease constantly with the situations that we are faced with daily.
As in the story of Moses (as.) when his mother was about to see him again for the first time, since letting go of him to save him from the infanticide of Pharaoh’s oppressive regime. She was about to call out to him and thereby put him and herself in danger of being killed, Allah (swt.) describes her heart in that moment as Fuad. Fuad is a heart, that if taken literally is on fire, overwhelmed with emotions ( of love, anger, fear, grief, stress, excitement etc.). In that moment only God was able to stop her calling out to him, by strengthening her heart to its normal state, Qalb.
However, in our daily lives we will also be confronted with situations where our hearts turn into Fuad and we will have to choose whether we act on what our Fuad tells us, or what would be the right thing to do in that situation, because Allah (swt.) will asks us about our choices in that moment.
“Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart (Fuad)- about all those [one] will be questioned.” [Quran 17:36]
Courage, is acting righteously despite the emotions that grip our heart. It inspires us as Ibn Al-Qayyim (rah.) said,“ to have a sense of self-esteem, to emphasize high and noble manners and to make it a part of our natural disposition. It also encourages us to exert ourselves to be generous, which is in essence, true courage and it leads to strong will and self-determination. It encourages us to distance ourselves from our ardent lowly desires, to control our anger, and to be forbearing, because by such, we can control our temper, take it by its reins and curb our violent and destructive behaviour, just as the Prophet (saw.) said: “The strong believer is not the one who can wrestle his opponent to the ground, but rather the strong one is the one who can control himself when he gets angry.”
This is genuine courage and it is the sole trait that the slave utilizes to conquer his opponent.”
Courage, is standing up to an oppressive system, a tyrant, husband, parents, family member, friends, strangers and the hardest of all yourself, despite the fear, despite the quite possible repercussions, and being patient with those repercussions, that befall you.
Plucking up the courage needed is hard, I know. How often have I stayed silent when I should have said something or tried to ignore those less fortunate than me. It is however something that can be trained by testing and expanding our boundaries.
Where and what are your boundaries? Is a lack of knowledge the reason you did not speak up? Then educate yourself on how to intervene, take part in Bystander education programs, such as the Intervention Initiative. Is it your physical ability? Then start your journey in getting more active. Put yourself in situations that require a certain degree of courage often, such as prayer in public or standing up for your siblings and it will get easier to be courageous and to be confident doing so.
Finally remember that Allah (swt.) is in control of our hearts, He is the changer of our hearts, and so as the Prophet (saw.) prayed “O Changer of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your religion”, pray for Him to grant us courage in all of our affairs.
Be more courageous, because in a time where hijabs are being ripped off of our sisters, where women are being sexually harassed left, right and center, where racism and xenophobia is normalised in our society, we can not stay silent in the face of injustice anymore.