Epigraph: “So go on reminding; surely, reminding is profitable.” (Al Quran 87:10)
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, may peace be on him, said some two thousand years ago, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” but, we are still waiting.
I have never been invited to CNN and have a premonition that I never will be. I do not fit their definition of an expert or a person of interest. In the past that would have meant a condemnation to lead a life as a ‘nobody,’ but, not any more.
Today, I can have thousands if not millions of followers in Twitter or other social media, if I incrementally build my portfolio. Incidentally, the main Muslim Times’ account, already has more than 41,000 followers, reflecting our work of the last year or so, during which we have made some more than 32,000 tweets.
The most dramatic event of the decade has been that anyone, who has some thing important to say, even if he or she is a ‘nobody,’ has the luxury to send his or her message out there.
Generally those in positions of power and influence are not interested in the opinions of every Tom, Dick and Harry, even if the opinions be correct and valuable.
In the world of the rich and the famous, only the powerful count.
Our world is a plutocracy, a rule by the wealthy, of the wealthy, for the wealthy and ordinary individuals labeled as ‘the masses,’ hardly matter, unless they are a part of a large poll or a voting group.
Rather than judging the merit of any opinion, we, the humans, first gauge the social standing of an individual and then evaluate his or her opinion, for accuracy or utilitarian value, more often than not.
We are geared in this mode of thinking by our evolution from primates and the large apes, who had been intimidated, led and managed by alpha males, over the millennia. We are always in search of alpha males or the social leaders and want to salute them or at least scratch their back, so they might scratch ours, which they seldom do.
Only one thing has changed in millions of years, as we have evolved from our parents that we share with gorillas and chimpanzees, in our contemporary world today, some of the alpha characteristics, come in female gender, as well.
The struggle of have-nots with haves has been a constant theme through out human history. Interestingly, Twitter has created a silver lining for the have-nots, who may be in beta or gamma disguises, in our human society. If you are one of them I have some good news for you.
There is some leveling of the playing field in Twitter, compared to for example, national television and print media, where only the rich and famous make news. In twitter everyone gets to tweet or retweet.
Twitter has redefined the way news is gathered and shared — stories break on Twitter now, not on TV or in the newspaper. So, in this sense there is equal opportunity for everyone. Recently, when Baroness Warsi resigned, from her cabinet position in UK, in response to UK policy towards Gaza war, the news broke out in Twitter. A development that would have been ignored by the main stream media a decade or two ago and Warsi would have ridden into oblivion without her 24 hour news cycle.
But, then the rich and famous already have millions of followers, even in Twitter, whereas the masses are struggling to have a few.
But, there is some silver lining for the haven’ts and meek also.
After-all, both the powerful and the meek have 24 hours in a given day. The meek may not have as many followers, but they can certainly retweet and favorite as many useful tweets by others, as they can and begin to make a difference.
So, the meek can be a part of this twenty four hour constant poll on all sorts of ideas, in Twitter and be counted.
The powerful are shy of retweeting, as they find it below their dignity or status to retweet someone, who is less than their own social standing. So, if the haven’ts keep on favoring and retweeting, what is generally useful for humanity, for human rights, justice and peace, as thousands and millions of meek keep on clicking, they can certainly create a tide of immense proportions.
Whereas, the powerful tweet about their own work and agenda, only the meek can serve a broader agenda and they have the reassurance of the All Knowing God:
He sends down water from the sky, so that valleys flow according to their measure, and the flood bears on its surface swelling foam. And from that which they heat in the fire, seeking to make ornaments or utensils, comes out a foam similar to it. Thus does Allah illustrate truth and falsehood. Now, as to the foam, it goes away as rubbish, but as to that which benefits men, it stays on the earth. Thus does Allah set forth parables. (Al Quran 13:18)
The Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, said, “The word of wisdom is the lost property of the believer, so wherever he finds it he adopts it.” The Prophet did not suggest to accept truth from the well connected and rich only and the Holy Quran advises us, to help one another in righteousness and piety and not help each other in transgression and sin, regardless of the status of the other party. (Al Quran 5:3)
Nicole Winfield wrote in a 2013 article in the Huffington Post, Pope Benedict On Social Networking: The Virtual Is Real:
Pope Benedict XVI put Catholic Church leaders on notice Thursday, saying social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter aren’t a virtual world they can ignore, but rather a very real world they must engage if they want to spread the faith to the next generation.
The 85-year-old Benedict, who tweets in nine languages, used his annual message on social communications to stress the potential of social media for the church as it struggles to keep followers and attract new ones amid religious apathy, competition from other churches and scandals that have driven the faithful away.
The Muslims can certainly take a page from the Ex Pope’s book, who has a billion followers in the world and at least a few million in Twitter as well. His message in 2013 repeated exhortations from previous years about the need for respectful dialogue online, for users to present themselves authentically and to listen, not just preach. What this means that rather than blindly retweeting the Muslim messages, we need to have a dialogue rather than a monotonous monologue.
There is a famous saying by, Adlai E. Stevenson, who served as the 31st Governor of Illinois and received the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 1952 even though he had not campaigned in the primaries, “The free press is the mother of all our liberties and of our progress under liberty.” In the past 7 decades all media has come to be owned by rich corporations and all of us have witnessed in one form or the other that he who owns the media controls the media and decides what is news worthy. Twitter may be the first instance, in the last few decades, where common man has some stake in what is news worthy and is shared around the globe.
This puts meek on equal footing with the powerful as they find equal time in a-24-hour-day, to be authentic and participate in the on going dialogue, on host of issues.
George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, an influential German philosopher of the 19th century said: “Once the world of ideas has been transformed, reality cannot hold out for long.” It can be done, one tweet at a time, like a steady water stream cutting through stones.
Hegel’s prophecy is about to come true in decades to come, as some of the alphas begin to read the messages of the betas and the gammas as well.
Blessed are the meek, for they can change the world, one tweet, one retweet and one favorite at a time.
— The Muslim Times (@The_MuslimTimes) September 1, 2014