Reflections of an American Muslim on Our New President-Elect
by Yasir Qadhi
When the Muslims were in Makkah, there was a major war raging in a nearby land; a war that was, relative to its time, of cataclysmic proportion. It was being fought out between the only two super-powers of the era. And even though the Muslims themselves had nothing at stake in that war, even though any win or loss to either side would cause no immediate change in their lives, the Muslims were emotionally attached to one side against the other. Their spirits, their hopes, their optimism, all centered on the army of Heraclius, the emperor of Rome, as he fought against Kusrau Parvev, the King of Sassanid Persia. These early Muslims felt an affinity for the Christian Heraclius as he fought against the fire-worshiping Zoroastrians. So, when the news came that Heraclius had been defeated, the Muslims were in fact dejected, and the pagans of Makkah boasted to the Muslims that their ‘team’ had lost. It was at this occasion that Allah revealed the first few verses of Surah al-Rum, which gave them the optimistic prophecy that even though Heraclius had lost this battle, he would win a future one, in a few years. Many years later, the Prophet wrote a letter to Heraclius, and Heraclius heard the message of Islam. While respectful of Islam, he did not convert. Throughout this entire time, the Muslims were not reproached or reprimanded for their feelings of hope towards Heraclius and the Roman Empire.
How much more so, then, are we deserving of feeling hope and optimism, when a candidate who WILL directly affect our lives and the lives of millions of people across the world has been elected. For those who wish to make Muslims even feel guilty for this hope, I say that our religion is a religion of optimism and a religion of reality. We should feel optimistic, at all times, and take the best from every situation. And between the two candidates that were running for the highest office in the most powerful country in the world today, it was clear in the eyes of many, which of these two was more inclined to peace, and which was more inclined to war. It was clear who was able to inspire with hope and optimism, and who was more inclined to inspire through fear and hatred of ‘the other’. It was clear who had more intelligence and common sense, and who could not even think clearly enough to choose a qualified running mate.
Make no mistake about it, though. Barack Obama is no messiah, and, as an American political leader, he will inevitably do things that will enrage people around the world, and yes, sometimes even us. But looking at the alternative, in my opinion and the opinion of many in the know, the message was clear: he was the better candidate overall, at this time and place, for Muslims, for America, for the world. And if it so turns out that those who voted for Barack Obama were wrong, well, they can say, in full conscience and with no fear of reprimand, ‘O Allah, this is what was apparent to us when we chose, and only You knew the future and what it held.’
Indeed, we thank Allah who will judge us for the sincerity of our intentions rather than the unintended consequences of our actions.
It is indeed an historic moment for this country, when a black leader, with the middle name of Hussein, the son of an African visitor to this land, raised far away from the bastions of political power, can actually win the highest office. It is an historic moment, and I am proud to have witnessed it. But the election yesterday was not about supporting the persona of Barack Obama as much as it was about the scathing indictment of the previous administration. When people voted yesterday, they voted not for Barack, but against the current administration. Obama did not win because he was Obama, but rather because he was for change. And to me, that is huge reason to be optimistic about this country.
There is much good in America, and we need to channel that good and help it overcome the bad. Keep in mind that while Obama won a resounding victory in the electoral votes, he only had a slight lead in the popular vote (52% to Obama, 46 % to McCain). And while it is overly simplistic and wrong to claim that all those who voted for McCain were supportive of the current administration’s policies, it is not an exaggeration to state that a fairly large percentage of them would be averse to the positive vision of change that Obama claims to want. And that is a scary thought, one that sobers us up the reality, and shows us that there is a lot of work to do ahead.
As an American, I cannot help but feel a sense of joy, a sense of optimism for the future, and the work ahead for all of us. And as a Muslim, I sincerely pray that Allah wants good for this country, and that He places people in power that will bring about that good through them, and through all of us. The Obama campaign might have stopped now, but our campaign as Muslims, in spreading the truth and calling for justice, never stops as long as we remain in this world.
In this moment of elated happiness, when the nation itself seems swept away with the raw emotion of victory, let us remember that true victory is one’s spiritual victory in winning the pleasure of Allah. Let us keep in mind that leaders come and go, nations rise and fall, and one day, after having witnessed much happiness and sorrow, we too shall depart, leaving this world with only our deeds to show.
May Allah make us all beacons of light, calling people to the truth, and being a shining example for others to follow.