Treating The Activist’s Burnout
I wrote this with a heavy heart after reading about the refugees dying trying to escape their homes that turned into war-zones; attempting to start new lives in Europe but dying in the Mediterranean. May Allah rectify their affairs, ameen.
Are you feeling extremely distressed? Has the exposure to the series of atrocities (domestic and international) for the past few months caused a great emotional strain on you? Are you beginning to feel hopeless, like there is no way out with the large-scale regional instabilities in our world? My brother/sister, you might be experiencing Activist Burnout.
Activist Burnout is a condition one develops after being emotionally-invested in injustice(s) for an unbearable duration of time. A personal example would be me during the Rabaa Massacre of July 2013. Watching Egyptian civilians get shot by their own military on live twitter coverage for peacefully protesting for the reinstatement of their democratically-elected president really broke my heart. Already emotionally drained from the unstable incidents in Palestine, Iraq and Syria at the time just put me into a depressive state of mind. I was tired of furiously typing against Zionists, Pro-Assad and Sisi supporters. I began to realize that I was losing significant hours of sleep watching and reading freelance news on the issues. I even began losing my appetite because my mind was so occupied on the incidents I was exposing myself to.
It was bad, and after reminiscing discussions on these situations with other socially-conscious friends of mine, I realized how pessimistic we all were. “The Ummah is useless!” “Look at how these ‘so-called Muslim nations’ sit idle in the face of their brothers and sisters suffering in the Levant!” “There is nothing that can be done to save our people…”
And that’s when you have to snap out of it.
“Indeed Allah is over all things competent.”
This reality is mentioned in the Qur’an so many times, and I really think that it is in times of activist burnout, where we need to remember this reality the most. To believe that the fate of the ummah is inevitably bleak, is to set a limit in Allah ﷻ’s capabilities, authobillah. Did Allah ﷻ not save the Kaaba from what it seemed to be its “inevitable” destruction with a swarm of birds carrying pebbles of hard clay on the Year of the Elephant? DId Allah ﷻ not save the Ummah at the Battle of Badr, when the 313 Muslims faced 1000 Meccan aggressors? Did Allah ﷻ not guide you in a world filled with misguidance? Allah ﷻ is in complete control of all affairs brothers and sisters. It is only mandatory upon us to worship and serve Him. That means even though we’re living in a system where 99% of the wealth is controlled by 1% of the people — us, the 99% will still be out on the street making sure our brothers and sisters have some food in their stomachs, some clothes on their backs. That also means that despite the ongoing conflicts around the world escalating worse and worse — us, the fortunate that live peaceful in our dwellings should raise funds for humanitarian organizations that are actively helping victims of these conflicts. But when you do these acts of kindness, remind yourself that you’re doing this for Allah ﷻ’s sake and that your efforts will never be the cause to a positive result; Allah’s sole decree is. With that mentality, you don’t exactly become relieved with the way the world is; you cope and accept the reality that the world is not always stable.
To conclude this brief reminder, I am not trying to pacify the masses’ anger at the political atmosphere we’re living in with spirituality. I am not one of those brothers that tell people that the reason Palestine is not liberated right now is because we can not wake up for Fajr. As a Muslim, I do encourage that we work on ourselves before we try and work on the world. Nevertheless, I won’t discredit people trying to make genuine progress in our world. They are doing great work, and if something great develops from their efforts — know that it was Allah ﷻ that decreed so. That is all I am trying to express in shaa Allah.
Allah knows best, and solely in Allah ﷻ we seek assistance.