A scenario we can all recognize
You’re going through daily life and notice there’s a problem or unmet need in your community. Many times, we may think “there isn’t much I can do about that. It’s beyond me.” If everyone makes the same conclusion, that problem will remain unsolved. Then another problem arrives, And another. All ignored and allowed to persist. Soon, “there are many problems that can’t be solved” becomes a part of our mental furniture. “The world is full of problems” becomes our assumption about the world. Apathy and the acceptance of widespread problems become normalized. But what did our Prophet’s Community do ?
Islam is based on ‘Amaal – taking action
Allah has stated in His Book:
except those who Amanu and ‘Amilu as-Salihaat (إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ )
Amanu means more than “believe”. It incorporates everything that Iman implies, including fidelity to Allah, hope for purchasing success in the Hereafter by our actions, and accepting responsibility both privately and publicly. And ‘Amilu as-Salihaat is the obligation that flows immediately from Iman. It means more than “do good deeds”, which we commonly associate with Salah, fasting, and paying charity. It means TO RECTIFY ANY HARMFUL OR DYSFUNCTIONAL SITUATION YOU ENCOUNTER.
Our Prophet said: “Iman has 70 branches: the least of them is to remove something harmful from the way of the People”. He also said: “Allah is in the aid of His Servant so long as the Servant is in the aid of his Sister/Brother.” So, how did the Prophet, his Companions, and succeeding Muslims go about this?
Individual, Collective, and Institutional ‘Amaal
Every individual Muslim is encouraged to do whatever is in their individual capacity to solve problems. But the Prophet’s Companions ORGANIZED whenever a need went beyond the capacity of individuals. For example, when he would spread his shawl on the floor of the masjid, and ask members of the Community to donate for a large need. It was such a situation in which some Companions brought whatever they could, ‘Umar brought half of his possessions, and the great Abu Bakr literally brought everything he owned. [my tears are flowing as I write this.] ‘Umar stated: “it was then that I knew I would never surpass Abu Bakr”. And Rasulullah stated: “I relied on the wealth of no one more than that of Abu Bakr”.
The point being, when the need was beyond the capacity of the individual, they gathered, organized, and collected.
Later, they would establish the public institutions of Bait-ul-Maal, and the Diwan. The Diwan (Bureau) was first begun by ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab as a census and registry to keep track of community members, the dues for Zakat, and the collection and payment of booty from war. It ensured that Allah’s Commandments were being fulfilled, that the methods were organized, and that the needs of people in the community were being facilitated.
Throughout subsequent generations, the Diwan was expanded, until it became a vast public institution, with many departments ensuring the various needs of the community, or empire, were being met with propriety. They even had paid “watchdog agencies” established to ensure that all matters were being handled with propriety, and that corruption was avoided or minimized.
And so we have the clear examples of how any Muslim can seek Allah’s Pleasure and Jennah by taking initiative: to stop ignoring problems, take up a cause, and gather others to provide help and financial resources. This is HOW the Believers fulfill Allah’s Commandments in removing harm and rectifying problematic situations in our community. Allah has stated:
Certainly, Allah has purchased from the Believers their lives and their wealth, because for them is Paradise