“I will lose weight this year”; “I will sort out my marriage problems and spend more time with the family”; “I will spend my money more carefully”; ” I will buy my mother a piece of land” –these are just some examples of the kind of resolutions many of us make at various time markers in our lives, most notably, at the beginning of a new year.
But for most Muslims, while the goals we set are usually praiseworthy, few, if any, are aimed at contributing to Islam on a community level. We might, for instance, aim to read more Islamic books or give more in charity. But many of us would not intend to teach at the local weekend Islamic school and share our knowledge or devote our time, not just our money, to a masjid building project. It is time to focus not just on our own personal development. We have to start considering what we can do for Islam in our community and for the Ummah in general.
Below are nine ideas that you can use or simply check out to jumpstart your own thinking and planning process when developing resolutions.
1. Become an unofficial/official Agent for Muslim Unity or UMBS where you live
Muslims need to come together to meet the challenges we face today. A common agenda has been there for several years but we remain divided. For Muslims, unity is not an option but an obligation. If the labor movement, women, and other minorities can organize on the basis of a federation/confederation model to address their common agenda successfully, why have we failed to do that? United we stand, divided we fall. Muslims must come together at the national level for a common Muslim agenda. I request that we all, individually, become agents of unity or Uganda Muslim Brothers & Sisters [UMBS] organisation wherever we are. Here is a list of things you can do:
Find out what your masjid is doing for Muslim unity;
Meet, call, and write to Muslim leaders you know and ask what they are doing to bring Muslims together;
Budget for funds and time you can donate for Muslim unity or to UMBS organisation;
Can you form a network of Muslims in your city who are willing to work for the national unity of Muslims?
Adopt a plan of action for something you can do individually;
Encourage your family members to each open up an email address purposely to join the UMBS forum or join it on facebook( which is very easy). A lot of people have willingly joined UMBS on facebook to learn about their religion and also interract with fellow Muslims.There are now over 6500 members on UMBS facebook page:http://www.facebook.com/groups/ugandamuslimbrotherssis/;
Donate anything that you think may help UMBS organisation to grow or have offices in different parts of the country;
Tactically bring the activities of UMBS in your friends conversations every now and then. This is called free PR.
2. Work with other faith groups
Remember all those nice people of other faiths who came forward to stand with Muslims after the backlash of 9/11 or during the period government arrested Muslims in pretext of crippling the ADF rebels in western Uganda? I love Uganda because of those people. There are millions of good people in Uganda who, despite all the propaganda against Islam, firmly believe that Islam is a religion of peace. Muslims need to work with them to build bridges of understanding in society. Could you do any of the following things?
Volunteer in soup kitchens or homeless shelters run by other faith groups;
Donate to a social justice program in your area;
Learn about their social services programs;
Invite them for Iddil celebrations;
Let their(non-Muslims) children visit your house and treat them with kindness and respect;
Invite their teenages to work in your house and help them to go back to school if you can afford it.
3. Develop writing and communication skills
Yes, it is a cliche to say that Muslims have too many doctors and engineers and not enough writers. But this needs to be said over and over again because it seems we have made little headway as an Ummah in this area. English is the lingua franca of the world, and unless Muslims develop their skills and talents in the field of writing and communicating in this language, we will continue to lose. There are more non-Muslims who have written about Islam and Muslims in Uganda than Muslims. We do not even have good books that can be given out on the issues of jihad, terrorism, underage marriages, Islam and politics, Shiriq and mental illness and women. Sign up for writing classes. Check out your local library or community center for free or low-cost classes and seminars. Read, read, and read. Send a letter to the editor of newspapers in Uganda, write editorials, and more. And if you want to submit your work for the web, please send it to UMBS administrator, Abbey Semuwemba, for publication on UMBS forum, blog or website Insha-Allah!
4. Take care of New Muslims
Takbeer, Allahu Akbar. That is how we welcome a new Muslim in our masjids. But what happens to these Muslims later on? One survey in USA determined that about 50 percent of new Muslims in Illinois and about 65 percent in the state of New York leave Islam within a few years. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, but if we do our duty of properly devoting our personal time and community resources, it will help stem the tide of conversions out of Islam. Help the suffering new muslims to get work or a roof over their heads. Tell them about the UMBS forum and organisation. Don’t be selfish because you somehow think you are not officially part of the organisation. Being a member of UMBS forum is enough to make anyone part of the UMBS organisation. So, let all members learn to help each other and help UMBS achieve its objectives.Don’t silently pray for its downfall.
5. Learn about conflict resolution
Remember the embarassing fights in the masjid or among the Muslim leaders in Uganda? Or, the wonderful active sister who wanted a Muganda man for husband but other UMBS members felt bad about it? What about the brother who was a great teacher at the Islamic university in Mbale until the administration decided to reduce his salary without informing him well in advance, and then he decided to write a damaging process evaluation about Dr. Ssengendo and IIIU? I personally never participated in this debate when it was presented on the forum but i sympathised with Dr. Ssengendo because running an organisation from scratch is not easy at all.
These are all cases where conflict resolution could have come in handy. There is a crying need for Muslims who can negotiate and mediate amongst Muslims. This is a skill every Muslim community needs to invest in. It is also a skill you should consider developing. You could do a degree in conflict resolution if you wish, but you do not have to go that far. You can attend seminars and/or one-day classes. Business schools may offer a course a few weeks long in conflict resolution. Consider mediating a group of people on UMBS forum that have failed to agree over a certain subject under discussion. Consider gaining and taking these skills to the masjid and to your local Islamic center.
6. Increase your time for the masjid
It is easy to drop shilling coins in a masjid donation box, but it is not so easy to devote a couple of hours every few weeks to da’wah to the masjid’s neighborhood. This is something i also find difficult because of what is going on in my life now but i admitedly feel bad about it. I have got such a busy schedule in my life such that i rarely find time to go to a mosque but i feel sad about it.
When was the last time your masjid had an open house? When were your non-Muslim friends invited to attend a party in the masjid? While everyone in masjids is ready to work on a masjid building or a school project, there are very few who are willing to spare time for neighborhood relationship or media communication. Many times, there is no one available to properly handle inquires left on the masjid’s answering machine or Imam’s mobile phone.
Time is our greatest resource, not money. Devote yours to causes that deserve it. Also remember that when you are giving time to the masjid, your inputs and ideas are also more likely to be considered by its administration.
7. Make your Muslim organizations more open to feedback and accountability
Have things been running the same way for years at your local Islamic center? Many, many masjids and Islamic centers lack management and organizational skills. They are run by an elite group of people who make all of the decisions without proper consultation with the community. They are also not held accountable for what they do or how the money coming into the masjid or organization is spent. This does not mean that everything they are doing is wrong. But there needs to be a more transparent and open system that will benefit all Muslims in the community, the male and the female, the young and the old, the immigrant and the Muslim born in Uganda. You can help start the process of change. This has to be done with plenty of wisdom and patience. But you and others will benefit from working to make your Islamic organizations more open and accountable to the community.
8. Adopt a Muslim issue which few pay attention to
This commitment does not have to be for a whole year. It can be only for three months if you like.Bring it on forum for debate using different ways inishallah. The aim is simply to develop a specialization in a specific area of need and benefit to Muslims. One of the best is the marginalisation of muslims in Uganda politics or public service. It is here, it is real, all of those involved in the issue are accessible, and you can see the results of your efforts more easily. But do not stop there. Write a list of muslims you think are fit for cabinet ministrial posts, ambassadors, PS, e.t.c, and then send it with their CVs to UMBS forum or Abbey Semuwemba for the authorities to take notice.
You can also choose other areas of the world and issues that Muslims have ignored or given sparse attention to lately: UMBS causes, environmental issues and domestic violence are all some examples.
9. Plan for Islam in your kids’ classroom and your workplace
Ramadan and Eid are no longer unknown to many non-Muslims in Uganda. They are now mentioned along with Christmas as media coverage of Ramadan this year in the Daily Monitor, Observer and Newvision indicates. That said, though, there would always be the new student, your child’s teacher next year, or a boss and the co-worker who need to know about our celebrations, as well as issues which concern us. One good project to work on is creating more awareness of Islam in schools and the workplace. There are still issues which cause misunderstanding and confusion. The hijab, prayer and Friday prayers are still issues of contention in a number of workplaces and schools.
Invite all to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching;
and consult with them in ways that are best and most gracious.
(Al Qur’an, 16:125)
Byebyo ebyange and Wassalam
Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba