The Meandering Minstrel and The Muslim 500

cover 2013

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.

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5 thoughts on “The Meandering Minstrel and The Muslim 500

  1. Nice thoughts in this Sidi Dawud. I’ve seen the names roll out on that list and my heart breaks for you all on it, if there’s any truth to it. When we look at the state of the Ummah today, and then think about those who have as much influence (read: responsibility) over it as the top 500 members of that Ummah? Audtho billah! Every Shepperd is questioned about his/her flock. May Allah ﷻ keep your flock and your followers and your poetry, nasheed, and callings, on the most noble and upright path. Ameen. Assalaamu alaikum rahmahtullahi wa barakatahu!

  2. Hadjra

    Mubarak to all the best ones on their in my opinion including the lovely influential Sufis Sheikh Nazim ,Sheikh Hamza Yusaf,Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad they are so amazing! Sheikh Uncle Dawud deserves to be on their Mubarak to him aswell 🙂
    Lots Of Respect to Sheikh Uncle Dawud 🙂

    His Fan
    Hadjra Amina Akhtar

  3. This post was so inspiring because it gave me the hope that there are tons out there who are taking risks in life to do things that are meaningful, even if they aren’t mentioned via accolades of honor. That being said, you obviously deserve to be amongst The Muslim 500 since you are an inspiration to so many of us. I remember our conversation at Northeastern University earlier during this year when I told you that you were one of those people who helped me think about my relationship with this earth. SubhanAllah! Less than a year down and I have already made my mind to switch out of my career in biomedical research to one in organic farming. Just praying now that Allah swt helps me sort the rest of the pieces of this confusing puzzle of life into something that’s meaningful for me and the rest of Allah swt’s creation.

  4. Daer Sidra, what a lovely follow up ~ thank you so much for dropping me a line to update me on your incredibly important decisions. You can’t imagine how excited for you I was when I read your words. Shifting gears as you have done is no easy task…taking incredible faith, passion and hope. Life is indeed a puzzle, but my mum always taught me: when you do a puzzle start with the edges…ie, know your limits and know your goals in each direction in life. Keep me posted as the journey goes ever onward with adventure!

  5. Oh, your words are always so full of wisdom masha’Allah. Thank you for sharing the wonderful advice of your mom. It definitely makes so much sense as any journey starts best if you have the understanding of yourself (and your limitations) and a clear sense of where you are going. Hence, I am taking my time to go slow and carefully assemble the puzzle together, one piece at a time.

    Currently, I am working towards applying for the one-year-long Bayyinah Dream program insha’Allah as I realized that taking some time off to understand the Book of Allah before I pursue my farming dream would be a good idea primarily because accessing the text would allow me to reflect deeper into the creation of Allah swt as I dig my hands into the earth and take care of the critters. Plus, farming is a very rigorous career that may or may not allow me to leave everything to go seek sacred knowledge as a full-time student so I may as well use this transitionary period to my full benefit. Of course, I don’t know where I am going to get the money for either but I recently learned that just like an engineer/architect simply devises the plan without worrying how and where the materials come from, we only do the best and then lay our utmost trust in Allah swt. So that’s what I am doing for the time being alhamdulilah! Once I submit my Bayyinah application, I will insha’Allah start applying for apprenticeship programs as a backup so if Allah wants that I start my farming career a year earlier, it better be the case.

    So insha’Allah, need tons of duas for this hodgepodge puzzle of “dreams.” I look forward to reading your blog to remain hopeful and inspired.

    Wassalam and have a blessed night. 🙂

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