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By Selma Cook

As Muslims living in the modern world we have to interact. Today is not a time for isolation. The world needs good people to step up and make a stand, have a voice and be a power of good and as individuals our faith increases when we live Islam, not just talk about it.

This means getting an education, finding a career, doing voluntary work and mixing with people who come our way. However, it does not mean simply soaking up the attitudes and behavior of those around us. Everything has its limits and in life, we have to know what ours are.

Once we realize that our role is to be part of what is happening around us, we have taken the first step. If there is harm or injustice we have to do our best to remove it and help make a change. If there is poverty we have to give. If there is ignorance we have to advise. And at all times we have to be patient, friendly, sincere and God-fearing. We do not live in a perfect world and it is obvious that there will be times when we will meet with hostility, even ridicule. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior even happens within the Muslim community, especially if we are campaigning against cultural attitudes and behavior. What should we do? First, we have to keep our course. We can do this if we know ourselves; what we are trying to do and why we are doing it. Second, we have to recognize when our efforts are fruitless and be able to humbly and kindly just walk away. Third, if we have another chance to return to our endeavor, we should jump at the chance.

Being a Muslim in today’s world takes courage, insight and perseverance. Sometimes we may be tempted to give in a little and compromise but the Muslim who is close to Almighty Allah will immediately recognize this thinking as a means of going far from Allah and hence, losing the light of faith and insight. Some things should never be compromised. A Muslim should not lie or steal or harm others. We should never manipulate others, be corrupt or come near to adultery and we should steer clear of drugs and alcohol and all dangerous substances. If we do things that Allah has prohibited us to do, we only damage ourselves, for the Creator in His mercy has outlined what is good for us and what is not. It is to our own detriment if we bypass His wise and loving legislation.

Sometimes we will meet people we really like and want to spend time with them. These people may or may not be good for us and we have to be sensitive to the changes that occur within ourselves when we are around certain people. If we have the habit of looking honestly at ourselves and what we have done each day when we go to sleep at night, we will see the influence of others on us; either in a positive way or a negative way. If our goal is to draw closer to Allah and be a better person, we will automatically pull away from people who, consciously or unconsciously, are trying to take us away from Him. So we should be aware, sensitive and make the necessary moves when they are obvious to us.

Sometimes the people in our life like family and friends; those who love us most of all, will advise us. The advice of a true friend is precious because it comes from a sincere heart. Therefore, we should listen to what they say without being overly sensitive. This takes great inner strength and control over our desires but like the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Religion is giving advice.” This also includes taking advice!

Sometimes we will find ourselves with people that we would like to impress. However, there may come a time when they will push us to do or say something we know deep down is wrong. This is a big temptation. Especially if we really like these people and their opinion about us is important. At such times, we have to ask ourselves who we love more; Allah or these people. Who will come to our aid if we are in need? Them or Allah? Who gave us all we have and who is always there for us? Them or Allah? The answers are obvious. It is Allah who deserves our love and obedience, so if we have to make the choice, always choose Allah. He, in His mercy, may very well send us people that we will love even more than these!

Life continues, grows, develops and unfolds with patience. Without patience there will be much hesitation, uncertainty and obstacles that can not be overcome. Patience does not mean sitting around doing nothing, and waiting for Allah to fix everything for us. Patience means making a course of action for ourselves after asking Allah’s guidance, then sticking to it and persevering no matter what. That means, persevering regardless of what people might say or do. Patience undoes the most difficult problems and complex dilemmas. Patience is indeed a sign of strength and it fortifies us when we have to make a stand and keep to the course we have made for ourselves.