Think Globally, Act Locally

A letter to my daughter:

I used to hate the oft-quoted “think globally, act locally” slogan. To me it was just an excuse for people to not dream big. It was an excuse to not attempt to change the world.

Why can’t we act globally, too? I thought.

I looked at the world and saw that from all of its corners it was bleeding profusely, plagued by systemic oppression and an inequality so entrenched in society’s fabric that very few people even recognized it when they saw it. And so I thought to myself, I have to change the world.

But as the years passed and the world became more damaged and broken than ever before, I began to understand that I couldn’t really change the world.

Yes, we need to know the world’s pain. We need to care for our brothers and sisters, locally and globally. Their happinesses are our happinesses. Their struggles are our struggles. We cry when they cry and celebrate when they celebrate. That’s what the brotherhood of faith means. That’s what the sisterhood of humanity means.

The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “The example of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.”

The connection we feel to those in pain, especially the believers, cannot be overstated. It’s part of faith to hold them in your heart, pray for them and support them when you are able. Still, know that in reality, you can only truly change yourself.

But changing yourself is enough. I’ll explain why.

Allah (swt) says: “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (13:11).

Allah will change the condition of the people only if the people change themselves. If you want to contribute something beautiful and positive to the world (and I hope that you do), don’t start by looking at the world, pinpointing all of its problems and planning political campaigns or massive fundraising initiatives.

Start by looking within yourself. What is it that you’re doing in your personal relationship with God and with others? Are you fulfilling your obligation to worship Him as best as you possibly can? Have you been striving each day to become a more generous, merciful and loving human being? Have you been struggling to learn more about your beautiful faith and practice it?

If the answer to these questions is no, you’ll never change the world. How can you if you can’t even change yourself? If the answer is yes, you have already started changing the world, and I’m proud of you. Now you can get up and continue this journey of change in a wiser and more holistic way.

Don’t ever attempt to change the world at the expense of your own positive development.

When people think about the massive problems this community has, it’s incredibly easy to slip into a type of paralysis and depression. They quickly give up hope when they realize that the problems are too big and their shoulders are too small to carry them all. If they become so disenfranchised with the system, they might even decide to take the law into their own hands and join misguided and destructive groups that wreak havoc on innocent people.

It isn’t in your power to change anyone besides yourself. Allah (swt) is the One who is able to truly change the condition of the people. When the time is right and the people have rectified their own souls, change will come.

You can change the world by just being a sincere believer, in the truest and most holistic sense.

Your dad taught me this concept like no one else before him. His was not a name that many people knew. He didn’t leave his mark on many things when he taken from us. He didn’t even have that many belongings. And yet, people from every corner of the globe now know him and his story. Many people changed for the better after hearing about him, his strength and his sacrifice.

What made him special was his kindness to his family and friends. He studied and worked hard. He earned an honest wage. He worshiped Allah as best as he could. He gave charity as much as he could afford. He struggled to maintain and increase his faith. He thought globally, loving and caring about the condition of his brothers and sisters in faith. Then, he acted locally by being the best version of himself in every place and situation.

Amr changed himself. And through that, he changed the world.

My little one, if you succeed in changing yourself, you will change the world. After all, this vast earth is only made up of individuals like you.

1 comment

  • Extremely touching piece, sister


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