Thursday, March 17, 2011

Learning from our Japanese brothers and sisters

You can’t help but feel the pain and sorrow of what is happening to Japan. Especially to those who are located near the disaster zone. The earthquake and tsunami has claimed tens of thousands of lives, many people are forced to stay in refugee camps, without any heating in cold winter-like temperatures. And while their supplies run thin, there is also the additional ongoing danger of nuclear radiation. However, no matter how bad it is, in every situation, there are lessons that we can learn to make us better human beings.

I have lived here in Japan for quite some time. Almost 6 years to be exact. And during that time, God has taught me a lot through my Japanese brothers and sisters (I don’t hesitate to call them my brothers and sisters because as God has said, we all came from a single human being (the Prophet Adam), which automatically makes us brothers and sisters in humanity transcending nationality and race). Several important lessons have again been taught to me through this bitter tragedy.

The first lesson that can be learned from the Japanese is the ability to have patience in difficult times. God values the virtue of patience in very high estimation, as it is mentioned time and time again in the Qur’an. And the Japanese are people who have this noble virtue. Even in times of difficulties with scarce food supplies they can stay in line to get them. Whether in the end they get what they need or not, they don’t transgress other people’s rights (to cut the lines or shove other people). Even without traffic lights (due to the blackouts) and no police officers they can maintain order in the roads. Everyone understands their role in this situation. That everyone is in this together and has to put all egos aside.

Being just
The ability to have patience and control one’s self leads to being just with other people. In this chaos, there are no stores being looted, no properties being damaged, and no rights being transgressed. And "The Just" is one of the names of God (Al ‘Adl in Arabic), and God indeed loves those who are just. It takes a high degree of control to be just to other people, and it becomes even more difficult in times of tribulation. I truly admire the Japanese for this trait.

Empathy and compassion for others
Generally, the Japanese are people with good hearts. Despite the toughness that is apparent in many cases, they will try their best to help others. And in this case, during the disaster, we can still see people trying to help others, even though they need to put themselves in harm's way. They can also cry for other people’s pain, which is indication that they have very delicate hearts, and I mean this in a positive way. One of the greatest disasters that a human being could experience, is to have a hard and dead heart.

Neutrality of the mass media
I might be wrong here, but it seems to me that unlike the mass media in many countries, the media here doesn't try to exploit this dire condition to get more money. I feel that the mass media genuinely tries to be a mean to mitigate the situation and provide information for the people’s sake. And most importantly, they encourage everyone to stand together and help hand in hand. Even the commercials being aired are those that highlight the importance of helping others, which conditions the viewers to have empathy towards the victims.

Although there are positive and negative traits in every society, I feel it’s important to learn from Japan regarding the many noble traits that they have. As the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said, that hikmah (wisdom) is the lost treasure of the believer. And we should do our best to strive for finding wisdom in whatever or whoever it may be in. This disaster is an eye opener towards the whole world about the beauty of these lost noble characters.

May God make it easy for us to see the wisdom behind whatever happens to us. May God ease the pain, give goodness, give patience and perseverance to all our brothers and sisters in humanity who are facing difficulties all around the globe. And especially for our Japanese brothers and sisters, may things get better soon and may the scars that have resulted from the recent tragedies be quickly healed.

Living with corrupt leaders

The string of revolts in the Arab world against their respective leaders is one of the hot commodities in the media nowadays. This is indication that there is a serious crisis of leadership in these countries. Most of them are corrupt and succeeded in establishing a dictatorship that oppresses the rights of the people for their private benefits.

No doubt that these corrupt leaders play a big role in creating the social problems in the society, such as the increase of unemployment, hunger, etc. However, we as citizens may also have a part in creating this condition, and should try our best to do what we can to make things better, and have patience for the sake of getting God’s reward. Of course there are without doubt times when the leaders are overwhelmingly unjust, and there are guidelines to deal with such leaders in Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh). However, there are also times when we put the blame too easy on whoever has authority in the land.

As said in the Qur’an, God will not change the condition of a nation until they change what is inside of themselves. It means that the best way to achieve positive change is by collective internal revolution. The results may not come overnight, but by God’s will, it will come. Even the Prophet (Peace be upon him) needed 20 odd years to build the perfect community. So to achieve positive change in a society, the emphasis should be on one’s self before anybody else. By doing so, God willing, divine help will make its way. Just as He put corrupt leaders on top of us, without doubt He can put just ones too.

Furthermore, we should also remember that everything that we experience in life is merely a test from God, including the power that people are granted with. Those corrupt leaders were tested through power, and failed. And we rest their case with God. There is no guarantee that we would do better in the same condition, and we should be grateful that God is protecting us from the tribulation of having power. As the historian, Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." Of course there are exceptions on this, with the greatest example our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), who albeit had power, always remained humble and just. On the other hand, we too are tested through these corrupt leaders. And we will get reward accordingly with our response.

May God have mercy on all of us and help those who are oppressed in His lands. May He guide our leaders to become just leaders that love the people. May He make all the tribulations that happen to us means to purify us from our sins, for the sake of our true victory, which is to be put in His gardens.

And God knows best