Hope for a Better Day
by Zain Bhikha
Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. (13:11)
These profound words from Surah Al-Ra’d resonate strongly with me. So much so, that they have been the inspiration of a song I wrote in 2010, called ‘First we Need the Love’. Though the actual Surah speaks about the signs of Allah’s wisdom and knowledge of the hearts of man, this particular verse calls to the individual as well. To help us recognize the truth of our hearts and change that which brings about the displeasure of the Almighty.
As a person living in the 21st century, when the world has become so small and the quest for truth and certainty so large, the global community affects us all. The sufferings and injustices of our fellow man regardless of race, ethnicity or nationality is pertinent to every person and the onus is upon us to have our collective voices heard, but beginning by first looking within.
As a South African, I am a product of Apartheid- that great human atrocity that divided people simply by the color of their skin. That said, I am also a son of freedom! Through standing firm in the belief for what is right, ours is a country that has realized that overcoming injustices is a possibility.
2014 is a significant year for South Africa as it marks twenty years of democracy. We still have many hurdles to overcome; the divide between rich and poor, misconceptions about other cultures, corruption, and a spine-chilling crime rate. What has been accomplished however, is a raw optimism that has been instilled in the children of our country. They hardly see people in terms of race; they overlook differences and learn from their brothers and sisters of rainbow colors. Our children embrace each other with a unique respect borne out of mindfulness. This feeling of community, what we refer to, as ‘ubuntu’ is something many people have been forced to learn. And though it has been challenging, it has and is slowly being achieved.
This was demonstrated just recently in what caused quite an uproar in local communities. A group of high school learners, amongst them a young Jewish boy chosen to represent South Africa in World debating, all donned Palestinian scarves and voiced their opposition towards the human rights violations that affect our brothers and sisters in Gaza.
It is most heartening to witness such a display of courage as it proves that our country’s children will not tolerate injustice. However, overcoming generations of misconceptions involves not only individuals at grass root level but also the strength of responsible leadership. The legacy of the late Nelson Mandela is undoubtedly forgiveness and tolerance. This is something we as Muslims have learnt from our greatest teacher, the last Prophet, Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him). Through his actions he has taught us to win over our enemies by first showing respect and breaking stereotypes. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) treated each person with wisdom and foresight, destroying all notions of superiority by color and even nation or tribe. In so doing, he instilled great unity amongst his companions.
In South Africa, trying to look to the future whilst learning from the past has resulted in increased patriotism amongst black and white. Goodwill, charity and love are things we witness almost daily. I attended a seminar last year where I was deeply moved by the story of an ageing Afrikaans farmer. A young black man by the name of Isaac Mashokwe had grown up on his farm. The farmer, trying to correct years of injustice, paid for Isaac’s education and has helped him to become a leader in his field. Amidst the challenges that South Africans still face, there are hundreds of stories as heartwarming and touching as this one.
In my personal capacity, I feel blessed to have lived to witness these moments of hope. Incidentally, my career began in 1994, also twenty years ago, and I believe the fact that it coincided with South Africa’s first free election gave me opportunities that would not have been possible for my parents’ generation.
Nevertheless, the struggles of growing up aware of the differences and the injustices have made me the person I am. As a singer and songwriter, my past has helped me write my music with conviction, look at the world with empathy and try whole-heartedly to be the change I want to see.
I am of the opinion that the capacity to love and forgive comes more naturally to us than hatred. It is August 2014, and there is still such endless human suffering the world over, it almost pains the soul. Power, and the powers that be inflict the worst of atrocities through prejudice and callous inconsideration of humanity.
But, there are also all of us! Each blessed with a heart and a mind. Every person with the capacity to know that all things are possible with conviction, and that with difficulty must come ease. We are the voices of the voiceless, we need to be amongst those who search for truth and never be folly to leading with blinkers or following with blindfolds. We have a responsibility not to prejudice, as we were prejudiced against. Most importantly, we have to seek guidance through Qur’anic wisdom and the exemplary life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
I have seen change in my lifetime. It has taught me that all things are possible, and that even the harshest of people can have progeny who will break the yoke of discrimination and hatred. South Africa has given me reason to be optimistic in mankind and my faith has been the beacon throughout.
There is hope for our brothers and sisters who live amongst the bullets, shrouded by the clouds of war. Through a global voice of unity, there is still a chance that the children of Palestine, of Syria, of all repressed countries will see peace and reconciliation. By the will of Allah we pray that their future generations will live to see the wonder that we witness in the eyes of free South Africans.
— Zain Bhika