Home Religion & Spirituality Activism And Spirituality Can Go Together

Activism And Spirituality Can Go Together

A person could be a hardcore devotee and a reformer at the same time. The ideal way is to show Ihsan (perfection) both in fulfilling the duties towards God and duties towards fellow beings.


Once, I had the opportunity to sit with a renowned Muslim activist in my hostel days. In the middle of the discussion, he remarked casually, “praying tahajjud at night and fasting on Mondays and Thursdays is an absurd activity. It is outdated and I’d pity someone who does that regularly. If students learned an essay about Hitler or Mussolini in the tahajjud time that would’ve been more useful for them and the Muslim society…” his speech continued but I couldn’t hear any more. I was left awestruck and had no words to say. I thought it was just a tongue slip and he wouldn’t have meant it. However, soon I encountered many people having similar thoughts, one thing these people had in common was that they all were activists and intellectuals working for the Muslim society. The base of their thought was that one can either study and become Alim (a scholar) and a social worker, thus serving his community or else become an Abid (a devotee) who only prays and fasts far from contributing anything to the society. I had to refer to the Quran and life of the Prophet to see if indeed these optional prayers and rituals are obstacles to be discouraged or boons to be sought.

I came across the 112th verse of chapter 9 (surah taubah) of Quran. The verse reads “Triumphant are the repentant, the worshipers, the ones praising Lord, wandering in His way, bowing down, prostrating themselves, the ones enjoining good and forbidding bad…. I realized that the first six characteristics Allah mentioned of the triumphant people and emphasized on would have been put in the Abid basket by our intellectuals. Similarly in other verses like 17-18 of Dhariyat: They used to sleep but little of the night, and in the hours before dawn they would ask forgiveness. Allah encourages us to pray in late hours of the night and turn back to him by telling us that this is a characteristic of heaven dwellers. Allah mentions in the Quran that our Prophet (PBUH) spent more than half the night praying. Despite that, he was the greatest reformer and served the society the entire day; I realized that this is the way we are asked to follow, spend some portion of our night with God and spend the daytime in serving the fellow human beings. Emphasizing only on the second aspect and openly devaluing the first aspect will disturb the balance between devotion to God and social service which the Prophet and his companions maintained throughout.

Now, let’s have a look at fasting. Allah explicitly mentions “those men and women who fast regularly” among the people for whom he has prepared special rewards (See for example verse number 33 of chapter 35). We know from authentic sources that the Prophet rarely left fasting on Monday and Thursdays and that neither affected his dawah nor his jihad. Despite knowing this, if someone discourages fasting claiming that it affects the studies and routine, wouldn’t he be discouraging the Prophetic way of life?

Once I requested a person to pray for me as I had an exam the next day, he replied: if you have worked hard enough, you would be successful even without my prayers, and if you haven’t worked you won’t pass even after my prayers!! Well, the speaker wasn’t an atheist, he was a Muslim INTELLECTUAL. It would be good here to remember an incident, the night before the battle of Badr, Prophet Muhammad arranged his camp and after all the arrangements were made, he stood in prayer the entire night. Abū Bakr found him pleading and crying with his hands stretched out to the sky when he came to him in the morning. Well, it is to note here that the Prophet didn’t say: if my people are trained well, they will win even without prayers, and if they aren’t they will be defeated even after the prayers. He made the arrangements and then turned to his God for assistance.

People in our time are of two types: those who only pray without taking the worldly measures and those who take all the measures but forget that in the end it’s God whom they should pray to fulfill their goals.

The above three (tahajjud, fasting, and dua) instances were just a few examples of the rituals many people have started dissociating with and feeling that they don’t match with the practical work, learning, and service. This thought that a person could either be Abid or Alim needs to be discarded. The Prophet and his companions have reflected throughout their lives the fact that both could go hand in hand with each other. A person could be a hardcore devotee and a reformer at the same time. The ideal way is to show Ihsan (perfection) both in fulfilling the duties towards God and duties towards fellow beings. If we neglect the 1st aspect and focus only on the 2nd, all our works would be in the vacuum of spirituality and the beauty, and all our efforts to lead an ideal Islamic life would be rendered futile.


  1. Rather than saying Activism And Spirituality Can Go Together it should actually say that Activism And Spirituality Must & Should Go Together.
    If what is being pointed out here is that an activitist cannot be free of spirituality then the vice-versa is also true. Any spirituality void of activism is not a path leading anywhere but towards self-destruction.

    • indeed, a wonderful suggestion. the correction you have madeto the topic is extremely valuable and i agree with ur point cent per cent

  2. Islam is a beautiful religion in which no stone is left unturned
    And if somone has question they will surely find the answers
    The point tht activisim and spirituality can fo together is something many of our youth have forgotten and this article makes it clear why we should ponder on this topic.