After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, economic, social, and racial divisions threatened to tear Memphis apart. A diverse group of community and faith leaders came together and MIFA was created to confront the issues of poverty, hunger, and social division through service.
2020 brought another crisis to Memphis. In a series of blogs, some of our current-day faith leaders have taken time to express their visions and hopes on healing and coming out of the pandemic better and stronger as a community.
As we gaze into the horizon of post-pandemic life, the state of our communities is in desperate need of attention. The pandemic hit us hard with a reality check. An oddity of a lifetime, never before had we seen such large-scale disruption to our communal routines and the devastation of relationships that ensued. Desperation skyrocketed as our best efforts felt like too much and never enough, at the same time.
Perhaps the harshest wake-up call we’re now facing: Virtual meetings could not truly compensate for the detrimental effects of no longer meeting in-person.
Now more than ever before, it’s undeniable. In-person attendance in faith communities fosters connection, strengthens relationships, and sustains both communal and individual growth. But as our communities begin safely re-opening, engagement and once-active individuals have not returned to the pre-pandemic levels we’ve hoped for.
While the obstacles ahead of us are clear, how clear is the solution? Is it in reach? Who will spearhead the novel solutions we need for a problem we’ve never experienced before in our lifetimes?
We first rely on God as The Ultimate Source of all goodness, The Guide to discovery of fruitful efforts.
But then, the answer is you. And her. And him. And we. And me. Our call to action is to foster and deepen connection that leads to service.
So, choose one person, family, or cause to serve. Bring them relief, comfort, assistance, food, care, pleasant company, hope, or inspiration. Do it sincerely and regularly, center your efforts in your faith community, and watch the ripple effects spread both to you and around you.
The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him) said, “... Whoever helps ease a believer in difficulty, God will make it easy for him in this world and in the Hereafter. …. God assists His servant so long as he is in the service of his brother.”
As we seek to live, heal, and move forward in “life beyond the mask,” we are connected through shared human experiences.
When we cry, we shed tears.
When we fall, we wish to rise.
But not all of us make the climb up. Many need a helping hand that heals them, pulls them out of hardship, and guides them towards resilience.
Be that person who heals. Seek out opportunities to serve and pull others out of distress. Shed light on one another’s inherent resilience. And be the force to move your community forward, hand in hand. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “The most beloved people to God are those who are most beneficial to people.”
Our dignified community members have been through hardship and trauma and may still be affected. Please remember to be kind and gentle in your service of others. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “... God is Gentle, and He loves gentleness. He rewards for gentleness a reward that is not given for harshness, and He does not reward anything else like it.” He also said, “Certainly, gentleness is not found in anything but that it beautifies it. And it is not removed from anything but that it disgraces it.”
I conclude with a prayer for us all.
Oh, our Lord, we ask You by Your Oneness and by the most perfect names You have given Yourself. You are Al-Jabbar (The One Who Compels), so mend whatever is broken within us. You are Al-Mu’min (The Granter of Security), so protect our communities from all harm. You are Al-Shafi (The Healer), so heal our minds and bodies. You are Al-Shakur (The Most Appreciative), so we praise and thank you in hopes of your promise to increase the object of our gratitude and beyond [Qur’an, 14:7].
Imam Mohammed Faqih
Imam & Religious Director at the Memphis Islamic Center in Cordova, TN.
Imam & Religious Director at the Memphis Islamic Center in Cordova, TN. And has been serving as an Imam for 25 years. He completed a B.A. in Islamic Studies from the Institute of Islamic.