Thank you to the The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre of Jordan for including me on their 2013/14 list of The Muslim 500. Since 2009, the publication has set out to “ascertain the influence some Muslims have on this community, or on behalf of the community” and within its pages, editors describe “influence” as “any person who has the power (be it cultural, ideological, financial, political or otherwise) to make a change that will have a significant impact on the Muslim world.” Naturally, it has been quite surreal to see my name appear each year alongside some of our century’s most tremendous thinkers, philosophers, artists and inspirations…and some of the world’s most threatening extremists, self-righteous preachers and corrupt political leaders.
Every day I drink my tea, play with my daughters, tend to my household chores (laundry, gardening, sewing, repairing things etc) while unceremoniously jotting down notes in my journal about what I experience, feel, think and learn. When time permits, I toy with those words to create poems and songs ~ recording them or fashioning them into books ~ and then (when invited) I travel to share those songs with loving audiences around the world in mosques, churches, schools, living rooms and theaters.
Of greatest inspiration to me are the tens of thousands of women, children and men I meet each year upon my travels ~ everyday people like myself with the “cultural, ideological, financial, political” power “to make a change that will have a significant impact” on the world. Many I meet are actively making such changes with great impact and little recognition. While religious clerics drop sound bites about peace in lands where imbalanced blasphemy laws exist…while Kings build pretentious clock towers overshadowing landmarks of religious pilgrimage…and while think-tank researchers tally up pop-star Facebook Likes, other more down-to-earth individuals scrimp, save and spend whatever they can on local grass-roots initiatives, touching the lives of thousands as effectively, quietly and broadly as ripples from a small stone in a pond.
Last week, during a brief tour of the United Kingdom, I met up with an 18 year old woman who arranged a fund raising event for cancer care, bringing together over 200 people on one night to raise over £2000. I met a 5 year old girl who embarked upon a read-a-thon to raise money for relief efforts in the Philippines, gathering over £380. I reconnected with an old friend who overcame a childhood of trauma with the help of an elder sister who was recently killed in a tragic car accident: she is now raising her nieces and nephews alongside her own children while simultaneously obtaining her BA and assisting others as a councilor. One dear couple I know have suspended their Phd studies to care for a dying parent, while another family I know have given up the wealth, comforts and stability of academia to start an organic farm, providing more healthy food alternatives to families across Britain. Thus, a list of “the most 500 influential muslims in the world” is naturally quite exclusive ~ sadly missing biographies of the millions who do so much day-by-day to teach, parent children, plant food, help the sick and elderly or stand for justice at the cost of their own comforts and often, even their own lives.
Just another observation to reflect upon by this meandering minstrel within his infrequent blog.
This year I have been thinking a lot about this fact: The Qur’an mentions agriculture, leadership, justice/law, healing, learning, self-defense, economics, science and dozens of others aspects of life, yet it has no chapters called “The Doctors”, “The Leaders”, “The Politicians”, “The Clergy”, “The Scientists”, “The Doctors”, “The Generals”, “The Engineers” or even “The Teachers” or “The Farmers”. But, it does have a chapter called “The Poets” containing a great warning to those who secure that title and those who may be inclined to follow them. The caution is about their tendency toward hypocrisy, distractedness and not living up to what they idealistically profess.
Help me, my friends, to keep from being one of those poets ~ to remain accessible, responsible and dedicated with integrity toward positive social change through my work, proudly alongside many of those incredible individuals mentioned in The Muslim 500… and alongside most of you amazing individuals who were not mentioned in the publication.