Friday, February 10th, 2017, marks the martyrdom anniversary of Sayyida Fatimah al-Zahra (p), 13th of…
“We made a covenant with the children of Israel that they should not worship anyone except Me, that they should serve their parents, relatives, orphans, and the destitute, that they should speak righteous words to people, and that they should be steadfast in their prayers and pay the religious tax. But soon after you made this covenant, all but a few of you broke it heedlessly.” (2:83)
Notice that the verse says, “to people” and it did not say for the believers, which would have made it exclusively for the faithful. This means that caring for people should be indiscriminate, not just for one’s own nationality, creed, or faith.
Harvard University performed a very interesting study published in 2014, in which they asked over 10,000 students from 33 different schools in various regions of the country to rank what is most important to them: “caring for others,” “achieving at a high level,” or “being a happy person (feeling good most of the time).”
They also asked students to imagine how their school peers and their parents would rank these values. They found that young people did not prioritize caring for others and did not see key people in their lives prioritizing it.
The youth were least likely to pick caring as their own top priority and even less likely to pick caring as the top priority of their peers. Twenty-two percent (22%) of students picked caring as their top priority, whereas 48% picked achievement and 30% picked happiness.1
When we look at Islamic history we find an excellent example of someone who showed us what it was to be a caring individual in the personality of Fatimah al-Zahra (p).
When the Prophet was praying, he had filth thrown on him by the pagans of Arabia. Fatimah (p) used to console her father and clean him up. She took care of the Prophet so much that she received the title Ummu Abihaa (mother of her father).
On her wedding night, a poor person came to her door begging for some help so that they could eat. Rather than apologize for her lack of time or ability due to her situation, she took her prized possession, her wedding dress, and gave it to that person so that they could sell it to buy the necessities they needed.
When she used to pray at night she would pray all the way until dawn. Her eldest son, Imam Hassan (p), used to hear her praying for so many people, even by name, that he asked her if she ever prayed for herself? She replied, “O son, our neighbors first then ourselves.”2
If we look at society today, we see that people live for years next door to neighbors that they do not even speak to, let alone know their names. Some have gone so far away from the values of the Prophet (pbuh&hp) and his family (pbut), that they have chosen to isolate themselves.
Isolation may cause us, as a community in the West, a great deal of harm. People do not really know the Muslim community and may just view them as something foreign. Islamophobia is running rampant these days.
One of the best things one can do to help spread the true image of Islam is to just be nice to people and care for their well-being. Put the words of Fatimah al-Zahra (p) into action this winter by simply paying attention to the snow forecast and planning to go to sleep earlier. This way you can wake up in time to go outside and shovel your neighbors’ driveways and walkways before you do your own. As a result, they will begin to understand the value of having a Muslim as a neighbor, one who cares for their wellbeing by living our creed of “our neighbors first, then ourselves.”
Imam Ali (p) said, “Prevail over those who made you their enemies by doing favors to them. This is more successful. You will save yourself from people by having good manners and swallowing anger. I did not find a sweeter thing than swallowing anger and in the end, nothing is more pleasant.”3
Some ways we can be more kind and caring towards people:
1. Be nice and pleasant to people when we meet them.
2. Be sociable.
4. Get to know your neighbors and co-workers.
5. Help your neighbors (removing snow from their driveways, helping them in their yard, or other things that you see that they need).
6. Get involved in local charities that give back to our greater communities, not just for religious causes.
7. Establish charitable organizations that can help meet a need you see.
Imam al-Baqir (p) said: “Be callers unto us without your tongues.”4
Hence, our actions should define who we are and what our religion is. We should dedicate some of our time to helping others and encourage our youth to do the same. We should find a charity, nonprofit, or some sort of community service to invest our time in. If we start doing this, the results will be truly amazing. By serving and helping people we will see the attitudes of people change towards Muslims, and we will be achieving great rewards with God.
1. ‘Making Caring Common,’ Senior Lecturer Richard Weissbourd, https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/files/gse-mcc/files/mcc-research-report.pdf
2. Shaykh al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 43, Ch. 4, H. 106
3. Ibn Abi Shuba al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-uqoul, p.82
4. Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol. 2, p.78