Disconnectedness in an Increasingly "Connected" World - Part I

Posted on Sep 09, 2015
Melanie Elturk


Since I've lived in Dubai I take a yearly trip home to Detroit to visit family and friends. I try to soak up as much as I can not only with my loved ones but with the Muslim community at large. One thing I noticed during my trip home to Detroit last month was the glaring disconnectedness we're all suffering from. We’re disconnected from each other but more importantly, disconnected from Allah (S) (more on that in Part II).

I was intently observing the girls that attend the youth camp I help run every year and I couldn’t help but notice that people were talking, but no one was really saying anything. Conversations were superficial; no one was talking about anything real. I noticed this trend more and more – with older girls who have grown up together who were suddenly disconnected from each others’ lives, to the younger girls who were all speaking to one another but the conversations were shallow, if not downright phony.

This was alarming to me because when I was growing up, and especially when attending camp - the moments I remember the most are the ones where I engaged in meaningful, deep conversations with my friends - and it was those same relationships that I still nurture and maintain today.

I reflected on why this was and, correctly or not, I hold social media to blame. It’s no secret that in our increasingly “connected” world we are in fact more disconnected than we’ve ever been. People have forgotten how to hold conversations – there’s no edit button, no time to develop perfectly crafted responses – the conversations happening in the here and now are left with much to desire. People aren’t really talking about anything.

This is problematic for many reasons – but the main reason I want to focus on is the concept of awliyaa' in Islam. Awliyaa' is the plural form of the word Wali’ and literally means supporter, guardian or protector. In surah At-Tawbah Allah (S) reveals,

“The Believers, men and women are protectors [awliyaa'] of one another. They enjoin what is good [ma’roof] and forbid what is evil [munkar]. They observe regular prayers, pay zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them Allah will pour His mercy for Allah is exalted in power, wise” (9:71).

We as Muslim brothers and sisters are the ‘awliyaa of one another. We are the protectors, encouragers, supporters and friends of one another. We help each other when we’re in need; we lend a shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen, we offer advice, we care about each other and are uneasy when we see our brother or sister heading down the wrong path. We are concerned for the well-being of our fellow brothers and sisters; we ask each other, “How is the state of your Iman?”

How can we do these things when we’re disconnected - when we’re in each others presence physically but really we’re just thinking about the next thing we’re going to post on Snapchat or occupied looking for a photo-op for Instagram.

The Prophet (S) said, "The Muslims in their mutual love, kindness and compassion are like the human body; when one of its parts is in agony the entire body feels the agony, with sleeplessness and fever."

In order to feel the pain of our fellow brothers and sisters we first have to know that they are in pain. We have to connect with them on a deeper level than the superficial. We need to put down our phones and really be in the presence of one another. We don’t want to look around one day when we’re truly in need and find that we don’t really have anyone real that we can turn to beyond the superficial acquaintances that pop-up on our Facebook news feed.

If I didn't have those real relationships that I nurtured and invested in as an adolescent and now as an adult I don't know where I'd be today. It is these friendships that get me through the good and bad times.

The Prophet (SAW) said, "If a person loves his brother, he should inform him of this fact." How often do we tell our brothers or sisters we love them, we admire them, that we think they’re amazing? Instead we cut each other down, we plot against one another and wish ill on others. Is this the behavior of a believer? As awliyaa’ we must be encouraging and supporting one another. Support each other in their endeavors – tell your brothers and sisters in Islam that you think the things they’re doing are amazing – build each other up instead of cutting each other down.

The Prophet (SAW) said, "O servants of Allah, be like brothers with each other. A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim; do not hurt him, or look down upon him or bring shame on him. Piety is a matter of heart (The Prophet (SAW) repeated this three times). It is enough evil for a person to look down upon his Muslim brother. The blood, property and honor of a Muslim is sacred to another Muslim."

If we are to have any hope of succeeding collectively as an ummah, we have to support and encourage each other. There’s no way we can truly come together without sincerely living this concept of awliyaa’. We know that Allah (S) will not change the condition of a people (and boy are we in a state in which we need to change our condition) until they change themselves. Let’s live that change and really connect with our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. Let’s break down the superficial barriers and start getting real so we can be the true awliyaa' of one another.

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