The Heart of a Volunteer

By Fatima Waseem

The ability to move from moments of solitude with Allah to finding spiritual peace and tranquility when dealing with others is ‘true’ spirituality. Hiding or finding an escape from people won’t benefit. This is something that you get to learn when you embark on the journey of serving Allah’s deen — a journey of self-transformation and of spiritual and social growth that pushes you beyond your comfort zone.

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When you volunteer to serve Allah’s deen, you are faced with challenges that you would have never imagined of before. It involves regularly struggling to maintain sincerity towards God and a balance between your work and personal life. At other times you will want to quit midway, as thousands of thoughts and emotions will surround you and goad you into giving up, or maybe trigger you to speak out harshly. However, if you keep your eyes on the lessons, you will find many to learn. The experiences from this journey will teach you the art to live, a life lived beautifully, despite all the challenges you encounter.

Here are a few guidelines that I would like to share with you that helped me change my perspective on work. I hope these will serve to maximize your efficiency and productivity when you volunteer to serve Allah’s deen, whether it is in the form of organizing religious events or bringing about a significant change in your lifestyle.

  1. The Purity of Intentions:

It is the basic and most important prerequisite of being an efficient volunteer and only comes through a constant struggle. It comes in a hadith that the reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. (Sahih Bukhari: 1).

Sometimes the temptation to ‘show off humbly’ will grab you, so it is crucial, to be honest to yourself while keeping your intentions exclusively for Allah SWT only. It’s okay if what you do is shown to the community around you but just make sure you do more good deeds in private, and keep some beautiful secrets between you and Allah SWT in order to tip the balance in your favor! Start with doing a deed in private for every public-oriented task. Work with such perfection and excellence that it marvels you but seek sincerity to gain His pleasure only. When you volunteer, ask yourself a question; Am I doing it to please the Creator or His Creation? If your answer is the latter, take a moment to rethink your intentions and goals to earn the highest pleasure.

  1. Mental Attitude:

Sometimes it happens that you do a meticulous job but do not see a turnout from the receiving end. It could occur in response to anything done for the cause of religion; arranging an Islamic talk, spreading the message of Allah through your writing, formulating a reminder audio or video, etc. There you start to think, “We had put all our efforts into this. Why did people not show up?” “We had done everything to get the message across. We sent out emails, pinned posters on boards, sent Facebook invites, but still…!” “Why did some people leave during the session? Was our event a failure?”

These sorts of reflections arise in your mind. So, here’s a tip: you made that effort not to hear louder applause in the end but as an act of worship for Allah SWT. It is already a success! This is the beauty of working for Allah’s deen as opposed to Dunya. There, rewards are given based on the end results. Here, it is given proportional to the amount of effort and sincerity you put in. How amazing! Whatever good it is that you’re doing in your best capacity is worthy to Allah SWT. It’s never about bringing a change to thousands of people around you. It’s about whether you want to help make a positive change or not. Your hard work and sweat were to establish the deen of Allah SWT, so nothing else should overwhelm you. Just do your job in the best way possible and then make dua to the best of Planners.

  1. Dealing with Animosity:

When working together as a team, it is certain that you will get into moments of disagreement over small and big things. You will have personality clashes, a difference of opinions, and at times, the friction will escalate. Every so often the meeting might not go the way you were hoping, giving rise to feelings of defeat and mental stress.

One way to deal with this situation is to remember why you are here in the first place.  Remind yourself that you are not here to get only your opinions heard and get things done absolutely your way. You are here to do something good that counts towards your salvation. If sometimes your opinions are not prioritized, don’t stick to it and let it go. Exhibit a positive attitude and refresh your thoughts. Stay open to other people’s ideas, this would require you to trust them and give them a chance. If someone else’s idea was voted the best by mutual agreement of the entire group, then make dua that may the deen of Allah SWT be best served through it. Initially, it might not be easy to get over the fact that your ego was hurt as someone disregarded your stance. Nonetheless, when it comes to this kind of work, just think what lies ahead and what more needs to be done. Thus, when believers work together, it is inevitable that undesirable and damaging sentiments will try to conquer your mind.

Be the bigger person, acknowledge them and combat them. Try to sort them peacefully and deal with them in a healthy way and grow a thick skin to work towards productive goals.

  1. Aim to Learn:

There can be times when you might be tasked with some other department’s work. And you will wonder why do you have to do all the work that is not even your responsibility? Well, let me get into it. If you really want to be successful, you need to help others and wish well for them. For your kindness is not for them, it is for yourself. Remember that our voluntary contributions are actually efforts to help our own selves. Through every volunteering opportunity, you will find yourself learning a lot. Gain new skills and hone your current ones, gain knowledge and learn new lessons. You will keep learning and enriching yourself as you continue to help others.

  1. Running Out of the Steam:

Sometimes you will find yourself completely immersed in the task at hand, so much so that you might stop giving enough time to yourself, to your parents, and to your studies. You might even miss your Salah because you were too occupied. Though it is good that you take your work so seriously, but failing to maintain a balance is a dangerous thing and it is eventually going to burn you out. Your primary goal was to be a good Muslim. If you start compromising the prerequisites of what makes a person a good Muslim, then it’s self-defeating. It will negate the purpose of you being involved in this kind of work, to begin with. You might argue, “Well, I’m not doing anything but at least I am benefiting the people around me”. That’s not a healthy thought process.  Just take a break and manage your priorities. Try not to take on more tasks than you can handle because for each responsibility you take up is a trust that you must fulfill, so take up only as much as you can fulfill with excellence. Being a jack of all trades and master of none is unsatisfying and makes you ineffective. So don’t run out of steam and keep a balance.

  1. Charge Yourself First and Fight that Enemy:

Boost yourself with exercise, get the right amount of sleep, read to be a person of knowledge and lastly have some daily spiritual practices. Personal piety is your charger! If you are not ready to spend time with Allah SWT alone, then perhaps you are not ready to work for His cause. Allah SWT says: “He has succeeded who purifies it (his soul).” [Qur’an, 91:9]

On the other hand, Shaytan will trap you in one way or the other, either through doubts or through desires. Therefore, keep a continuous check on your obligatory deeds, and more importantly, on your desires. Keep seeking continuous help from Allah SWT when you find it hard to battle the Shaytan. Thus, the only way to do that is to cleanse your heart and connect it with Allah SWT through dua by consistently offering prayer and repeatedly making tawbah (repentance). Stay in the company of those who you know will stop you when they find you straying and who will motivate you and give you hope when you begin to doubt yourself and your abilities. Again, dua and perseverance are the keys which make the heart of a volunteer stronger.

I pray that these advices are taken to heart and Insha’Allah, may there be none except good in them for us.

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