Charles Dickens began “A Tale of Two Cities” with this sentence: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”He was writing of the period of the French Revolution of the late 18th Century and the sentence not only describes that time but also our time.
We live in a time of great upheaval within Malaysia, our region and the world at large. Whether it is economics, politics, society or religion we are witnessing a sea change in conditions and attitudes. We as individuals are a part of this “revolution” in thinking, in the lifestyle we live, and are each of us important actors in the process and the result.
Throughout the world, and not just the West, people and societies have lived well beyond their means, and allowed others to define our “needs” as the equivalent of our “wants” and in so doing creating a culture of Greed. It is wise to remember that greed is one of the sins and for good reason. It not only tends to destroy the real wealth of the individual but also the wealth of the society: Witness the American Economy’s condition today, and what it has done to the rest of the world’s economies. Malaysia is not immune to this tidal wave; our leaders either cloak the reality in false rehetoric or release overly optimistic forecasts.
It does not take a genius to see that we too face difficult times ahead. Oil has been at record highs in 2008, yet as I write this crude is selling at half of this high. It is going to change our national budget and our individual lives. And Palm Oil prices are declining at record speed, to the point that FELDA and IOI (a main processor and exporter) are facing difficult years ahead.
We, especially the young among us, have become adjusted to high expectations without the hard work that is normally required. We have made our wants our needs, and we have fallen into the habit of the pursuit of individual instant material gratification instead of having our lives dictated by our values.
A recent western rock song goes, “I Want it All, and I Want it Now.” A Turkish scholar once declared that a single Solat by a young person, surrounded as the young all are by their needs and passions, is worth a thousand similar prayers by an old one.
And indeed, given the condition of the world being passed on to them by their often incompetent elder leaders, this song expresses a terrific and valid temptation. We pray that the youth especially may be blessed by Allah swt with resistance to the temptations of these times, as well as the courage to NOT GIVE UP.
We are not alone in this: it is a world illness. We as Muslims must return to the fundamental concepts of our faith and the essential elements of sharing within our society. We must invite others, within our country and beyond, to see the societal role in every act of an individual, and the value that such an ethic holds for a society and for the world. We must give of ourselves in these difficult times to others less fortunate. We learn to appreciate their condition and what is truly important in the holiest month, so that we practice it year round. But we cannot do it alone, we must come together as Muslims and citizens of this World.
Islamic Outreach ABIM is one group which allows us to do these things, and to re-emphasize and re-dedicate ourselves to Islamic principles reflected in our vision: inviting, sharing and giving. It is not only money but also – even more so – our time and our caring and our values. Let us all come together in these difficult times and through Islamic Outreach ABIM and like organizations. By being true Muslims, we can help in these times of crises and be a light of good values for the world.
Azril Mohd Amin