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I was asked a few weeks ago if I would be willing to pen a small piece on “the state of the Muslim Ummah.” I gladly obliged. Recent victims of terror include those in Istanbul, Baghdad, Dhaka, and Kabul. Places like Syria, Palestine, Yemen, and Kashmir are living through occupation, war, and instability. Our sisters and brothers in the Black community constantly live under the threat of death as they walk down the street. Muslim-majority populations seem to be the perpetual victims of fear, horror, and destruction. Every other day, I am confronted with a new headline outlining the most recent atrocity.

What is the state of Muslims? The Ummah? Other than constant death and woe, I haven’t a clue.

I could conjure up analyses, report on current statistics, and offer a heartfelt and adamant essay on why we must rise and unite as Muslims. Yet, I feel that is, more or less, futile. The question itself must be examined. It is multilayered: the external or internal state? While the former draws more immediate attention, I deem the latter as more important. But in order to inch towards an answer for it, I must first aim to address another question: What is the state of my soul? I can hardly claim to know about the internal state of billions of Muslims if I do not even know about my own.

The concept of the “Ummah” is that of a transnational community tied together through the sharing of a mutual belief. However, if I am to claim membership to this religious community, I must examine the condition of that which ties me to it: namely, my belief. Each individual’s membership to the Ummah is dependant upon their belief. As such, it can be conceded that the state of each person’s belief is deserving of the most attention. Not politics, not the most current headlines, nor the most recent state of affairs. All large-scale changes take place with the initiation of what is considered a miniscule change. If I desire any difference in this world, I must first examine the workings of my heart, listen to the questions in my mind, and take heed of the state of my belief which lives through dynamic changes every passing moment.

This is not to advocate for apathy to the state of Muslims all over the world but rather to insist that I must always prioritize the condition of my own spiritual state if I am to take part in aiding others. Such a conclusion is difficult for me to swallow. Most days, it is easier for me to simply disregard it. Yet, I am mandated to first begin by cultivating a conscious understanding of what I believe in, why I believe in it so, and if my heart and mind are satisfied with the answers I reach. And if all three of these conditions are resolved, I must ensure the continuation of this consciousness every day.

If there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, then the Muslim Ummah is made up of 1.6 billion souls — souls that share a collective existential state whose only cure lies within. If I cannot change the state of my own self, I can hardly change the state of 1.6 billion. Any good for the state of the Muslim Ummah will come about by the courage one individual summons to engage in a process of reflection and to better their own self.