Faith in Action
Issue 82 July 2011
“The words dearest to God are: ‘subhan-Allah, wa bi-hamdihi’ — Glory be to God and I Praise Him,” said the Prophet, and surely we must praise Him in every state, through the good and the bad. At emel there have certainly been a lot of both.
When we created emel in 2003, we hoped that by making a space to tell the stories of Muslims we would help change the negative imagery that was appearing more and more in the media around us. Being based in the UK, we created emel for Muslims of Britain. The project was a small thing — a tiny contribution. Little did we know it was to totally change our lives; and the lives of many other people that it has touched.
Unexpected global media attention meant that the magazine soon had international subscribers. By the time we went monthly in 2005 and launched a small website that same year, we had subscribers in 30 countries. Today we have subscribers in over 60, a website with 80,000 visitors a month, and now a new digital edition with interactive content from across the globe. We are also beginning the move towards global translations.
The journey has not been a smooth one. It has actually been terrifying, and painful at points. There have been many times that I wanted to give up. Many times that I wished we had not been so foolish as to imagine that we could make a difference. Many times when The Whisperer whispered into my heart words of fear, self-doubt and panic. Yet, somehow, by God’s Grace and Glory, and the support of family and friends, we have kept going. Miracles have occurred when we were financially at an impossible point. New people have come into the company to bring fresh ideas and energy when we were exhausted and despairing. When we thought ‘no more, that’s it’, God somehow provided the means to carry on, and allowed us all to remember the values of what we are doing despite the doubts, pitfalls and difficulties.
Over time we needed to refine our ideas, to make sure we knew our purpose, and in so doing we crystallised the “Four Cs.” The first of these was to give Confidence to a defensive community with its back to the wall. In 2001-2002 I spent so much energy describing that Muslims were ‘anti-violence’, ‘anti-extremism’, ‘anti-terrorism’. And still there were politicians and civic leaders who felt they had “not heard enough condemnation from Muslims.” I personally had no more to give. I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained from referencing and apologising for violence and brutality that I had no part in creating. If emel was to do anything, it had to create a space where Muslims could confidently describe what they were for, not always what they were against, for we passionately believed that confident people would be better able to follow through on the next C and Contribute.
The Qur’an describes our role as human beings in a number of places. Islam is never just about faith. It is always faith AND something... Faith and prayers. Faith and charity. Faith and good conduct. The Qur’anic and Prophetic paradigms for the faithful are always people who work hard for those around them, people who serve others. Who contribute. But contribute to whom? This is emel’s third C.
Islam is not a religion of a chosen people. Faith alone is not a guaranteed one-way ticket to paradise. The Qur’an addresses itself to “O mankind!” And the Prophet came as a “Mercy unto Mankind” not just to Muslims. If Muslims were to have the confidence to contribute then it had to be for the benefit of everyone, for the Common Good.
And these three Cs had to have an anchor, and a connection, and thus Connectivity is our fourth C. If emel was to be of value we wanted to connect Muslims to their own positive stories; to demonstrate how Muslims were fully connected to wider society; to connect wider society to Muslims; to connect Muslims to the Divine; to connect them with their history; to connect them to their potential futures, and indeed to a vision of their own potential. And to connect people across the world.
Through Facebook we now have over 230,000 connections between emel’s page and my own page. Through the web we are daily connecting with people from as far afield as Australia, Indonesia, USA, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Asia and the countries of Europe. Indeed the website has visitors from every country on earth except seven. And this is the miracle of the digital age. We can see and connect with events and people from thousands of miles away, at an instant. We pray that God continues to bless the emel project and to facilitate the work that we do. For surely all Glory and Praise are His.