Life as a Parent Prophet Muhammad was an Activist: We and our Children should be, too.
Al-Nisa, Verse 135: O you who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not your hearts, lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.
Written by Fizza Mir
From an early age we aim to instil a sense of justice in our children. We teach them to share, to express kindness, to offer support and develop empathy through considering perspectives beyond their own. We encourage them to donate to charity, to sympathize with the less fortunate and be grateful for the blessings they enjoy. While all of these practices honour and uphold key tenants of our faith are they enough to stand “firmly for justice” as we are commanded to do? Do these actions challenge the systems that create poverty, do they resist structures of oppression and do they promote critical introspection so that we can interrogate our positioning and responsibility within such systems? As my children grow and surpass me in height, knowledge, thoughtfulness and compassion – Alhamdulillah – I reflect on our family praxis in aspiring to uphold justice in all our micro and macro endeavours.
- Muhammad (saw) was an activist, we should be too.
As we aspire to emulate the best living example of our deen, not only are we inspired by the beautiful characteristics of our Beloved, but we are galvanized by the courage and strength with which he fought oppression and upheld justice in the time of jahiliyya. With pride we claim as our heritage the decrees that structurally mandated charity, dismantled slavery, condemned racism, outlawed misogyny and upheld the rights of nature, animals, orphans, widows; all those with little to no societal status or agency. As his ummah, are we committed to the causes that defined his life? Do we truly live by this example? We know that our Prophet was considered an outcast for his social positions. He was hated, isolated, targeted but he always sought guidance from his Creator and carried on. May we have the courage and the strength to challenge the injustices we encounter everyday – within our own families, our communities and our society.
- Seek Knowledge – all knowledge.
We know that seeking knowledge of the deen is incumbent on all Muslims, but how do we contextualize that without an understanding of our social/political/cultural/environmental landscape? Whether we acknowledge it or not, every aspect of our lived experiences is saturated by surrounding socio/political conditions and we cannot engage in meaningful social justice work without an understanding of those conditions. If we hope to raise children who can identify and counter historical/structural sources of injustice, we must first understand it ourselves.
- Recognize our privilege, even if we’re not white.
Gratitude is an essential Islamic principle we teach our children and consistently try to nurture within ourselves. However, being grateful must also encompass a recognition of how such privileges came to be. Identifying our privilege helps us recognize the socio/political structures that work to strip others of theirs. Introspection and honesty are crucial here! What advantages do you have, that others don’t? Are you male? Are you fair skinned? Are you able bodied? Are you financially stable? Do you speak fluent, unaccented English? Are you a citizen of a Western nation? Do you have access to clean water? Are you benefiting from stolen, occupied land? We cannot ‘stand firmly for justice, even against ourselves’ without interrogating our positioning and identifying our role in upholding structural oppression.
- Check your intentions and your alliances
Most people engage in social justice work with the noblest of intentions; to promote equality, to combat injustice, to fight poverty, to expose racism, to protect the planet etc. However, it’s critical to proceed with humility, and acknowledge and learn from the work being done by the people most engaged with and affected by the issue at hand. Engaging in good work feels really great – Alhamdulillah – and if we hope to proceed with Allah’s guidance and assistance, it’s important that we constantly check our intentions, reassess our motivations and reaffirm our commitment to serve. Just as good company enhances our character, good allies enhance the integrity and transformative outcomes of social justice work. Chose friends and allies who demonstrate a willingness to listen, learn, grow and put principles ahead of personal ambition.
- Seek guidance, courage and carry on
There’s no question that the current political climate is terrifying. From the unfathomable violence carried out by despots against their own citizens, to Black people being killed with impunity, to an unprecedented rise in Islamophobia and the unchallenged popularity of Trump style fascism, it seems any concept of justice is a distant illusion. But this is the time when our engagement is most crucial, when we must teach our children to exercise their agency, to not remain silent, to truly emulate the example of Muhammad (saw), who through tremendous adversity, strove for peace, justice and equality.
May we constantly seek Allah’s guidance as we move forward, may we gain wisdom and clarity in our reasoning, courage and fortitude in our actions, sincerity and success in our goals. Ameen.
Fizza Mir is a part-time high school teacher with the Peel District School Board and is currently completing her Masters in Social Justice Education at OISE UT. She is the co-founder of Azadi Project, a fair trade fashion brand that helps support female artisans in rural Bangladesh. Fizza has organized and participated in numerous actions related to; anti-war organizing, environmental justice, civil liberties, anti-poverty work and youth engagement.