Originally published in Santa Barbara Independent
“Prayer is better than sleep.” At 4:30 a.m., these words echoed through a hall packed with 1,240 Muslim youth during the call to prayer. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Organization, known as Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya (MKA), brought together Muslim youth across the United States for its annual conference. With activities from 4:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., the annual MKA national conference provided proper guidance to Muslim youth, fostered brotherhood, and reminded Muslims of their duty to serve mankind.
The conference began with these young Muslim Americans standing shoulder to shoulder, uniformly reaffirming their pledge to “always be ready to sacrifice their life, wealth, time, and honor for the sake of their faith, country, and nation.”
This proclamation isn’t a modern invention. Rather, these words are in alignment with the Qur’an’s emphasis of serving humanity and safeguarding the sanctity of life. Muslims are benefactors for mankind. God tells Muslims, “We have raised you for the good of mankind” ( 3:111). It is then imperative for Muslims to serve their fellow man. If Muslims have been raised for the good of mankind, then Muslims must be willing to sacrifice their own time for the sake of helping others.
This service for others is ingrained in Islamic injunctions. For example, Muslims are required to give a portion of their income for the less fortunate and those in poverty (i.e., Zakat). Besides monetary sacrifices, Muslims are instructed to give life and save their fellow man as per the Qur’anic verse, “to save a life is like saving all of mankind” ( 5:33). The Prophet Muhammad also said in his farewell address, “God has made the blood, property, and honor of every human being sacred.”
This proclamation is not mere lip service. MKA USA commits itself to serve humanity and to abide by the instructions given by the Qur’an. In last year’s Muslims for Life campaign, over 11,000 pints of blood were collected from over 370 locations nationwide to serve local blood banks. This year’s goal is to collect over 12,000 pints of blood potentially to save over 36,000 lives. At this youth convention, MKA USA also broke the Guinness World Record for the most hunger care packages assembled in under three minutes. The previous record holder was retail giant Walmart. These are just a few examples of Muslims fulfilling the duties indicative of the “good of mankind.”
Islam further fully condemns the atrocities that occurred in the Washington Navy Yard Shooting and in the Kenya mall attacks. Given the importance to Islam of serving mankind and the sanctity of life, such acts destroy the beliefs that Islam dearly aims to uphold. When such barbaric events taint the world, Muslims invite their fellow Americans to join hands and combat bullets with blood drives to help the ill. Prayer is better than sleep, but we should also awaken when violence attempts to divide mankind. We will together not sleep through injustice.