You change the world, or the world changes you

Iceland waterfall and rainbow

By Wael Abdelgawad |

Keep faith in yourself and don’t let anyone else define your reality. You are strong and unique. You have a particular mission in this life that only you can fulfill. You can wake up in the morning and change the world, one small step at a time, just by fulfilling your unique mission.

Maybe you think, “Hey, I don’t want to change the world. I just want to stay sane, take care of myself and my family, perform the Islamic rituals and hope for Jannah.”

The thing is, life is always a contest between the world changing you, or you changing the world. The world pushes, and if you don’t push back then it will inevitably corrupt you in one way or another.

Today’s world tries to change you through the pressures of:

  • blind materialism
  • consumerism
  • sexual imagery in the media
  • constant advertising
  • negative portrayals of Islam
  • alcohol and drug use
  • peer pressure

to name a few.

Sometimes the pressures are more brutal and blunt: emotional or sexual abuse, pornography, violence, racism, bigotry, misogyny, hatred and war.

Iman (faith) is not static. It rises or it falls, but it never freezes in place. If the world is not changing you then you must be changing the world.

You change the world by spreading light, teaching truth, being honorable and kind, behaving with sincerity in all things, showing compassion to all people, and always being just. You exert an outward pressure of truth that has a transformational effect on those around you, beginning with your family, and then rippling out to all those you come in contact with, and then everyone they come in contact with, flowing outward in concentric circles.

The ultimate world-changer – and our eternal example – was the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Allah describes Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the Quran as an illuminating lamp: “O Prophet, indeed We have sent you as a witness and a bringer of good tidings and a warner. And one who invites to Allah, by His permission, and an illuminating lamp.” (Quran, Al Ahzab 45-46).

The Prophet’s light radiates throughout humanity and the ages. Any objective observer must admit the power and influence of the Prophet’s tremendous struggle. A non-Muslim writer named Michael Hart, in his book, “The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History”, ranked the Prophet Muhammad as the single most influential human being in history.

The Prophet grew up in a society of idol worship, moral corruption and constant blood feuds, but he never allowed that society to taint his innocent nature. Not knowing how he should worship Allah, he kept himself distant from the evil around him and sought Allah in his own way, until Prophethood came to him. When it did, he accepted the burden and fulfilled the trust, exerting an outward pressure so powerful that it changed the entire world forever.

The same is true for you and I, on a smaller scale. We’ve been given a trust and a mission. We are to be callers to Tawheed, witnesses for truth, a civilizing force, champions of human equality, and restorers of human values (the fact that many modern Muslims have failed abominably on every point does not change the truth of this).

“O you who have believed, fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims [in submission to Him].

And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.

And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful.” (Quran, Aal-Imran: 102-104)

That is our mission and trust. If we fulfill it – even if we only try – we will change the world, maybe incrementally, maybe profoundly.

If we fail, then the world will change us, and not for the better.

There is one key to success in fulfilling our mission to change the world. It’s not purity, because in a post-Prophethood age, no one is truly pure. Purification of the soul is indeed a lifelong goal to strive for, but it is not the key.

It’s not wisdom, or power, or finance. It’s not even knowledge. Knowledge is the most powerful tool there is, but like any other tool it can be used or misused. That’s why a little knowledge can be a powerful thing, while great knowledge can sometimes be crippling.

Purity, wisdom and knowledge are goals for us to pursue. But none of those is the single most important key to changing the world.

The key is sincerity in all things:  sincerity with Allah, with your family, your friends, your colleagues, and – this is the greatest challenge of all – sincerity with yourself. Sincerity enc0mpasses purity, because actions done sincerely are done with purity of intention, and with obedience to Allah. Sincerity implies selflessness, seeking knowledge and applying it with compassion, kindness, respect, and fairness.

“Say, ‘Indeed, my Lord has guided me to a straight path – a correct religion – the way of Abraham, inclining toward truth. And he was not among those who associated others with Allah.’ Say, ‘Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah , Lord of the worlds. No partner has He. And this I have been commanded, and I am the first [among you] of the Muslims.'” (Qur’ân 6: 161-163).

That is the ultimate level of sincerity, and the challenge of a lifetime. If you can even approach that level of sincerity, you will change the world, whether you intend it or not.

Life is always a contest between the world changing you, or you changing the world. The prize that lies in the balance is the fate of your soul. Who will win?

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Article by Wael

Wael Abdelgawad is an Egyptian-American living in Fresno, California. He is the founder of several Islamic websites, including and, and also of various technology and travel websites. He is a writer and poet, and has been a web developer since 1997. This project,, is very dear to his heart, as it has allowed him to express ideas that have growing inside him for many years. Wael is divorced and has one lovely young daughter. He practices and teaches martial arts (somewhat obsessively), and loves Islamic books, science fiction, and vanilla fudge ice cream. Wael is an advocate for human rights and blogs about these issues at He is also a volunteer with the MyDeen Muslim youth organization in Fresno. Wael tagged this post with: , , , Read 266 articles by
10 Comments Post a Comment
  1. María M says:

    As salamu alaykum,

    Your Words reflects your Thoughts and your Acts should be a reflection of your Words, we touch others people´s hearts when they feel that sincerity that you talk about. Thank you very much for your Thoughts, Words and Acts.

    Agree with everything, exept the expression,” who will win?” that hurts me.
    When we are conscious that we can change the world all the space is fulfilled with Responsibility (Sincerity)in Thought, Word and Act and, little by little, we move in the direction of the straight path, everyone at their own speed,then for me every single step is a winning, … every single breath in waking up to consciousness is a winning…
    Talking about a game, I understand about winners or loosers, but here?????
    Beslama Brother.

  2. María M says:

    Thinking about it,… being a question of choice, I´d rather change the world.

  3. María M says:

    I was thinking today about changing the world and how we in some stages of our life, we are like that hard cliff that is in the picture, it seems that we get stuck in our petrified and stagnated thoughts, but we are not alone, even if we are that tough rock, here it comes the water, smoothly, little by little is polishing the rock, in a very soft way but never getting tired of doing it, until the landscape changes completely and the rock is not the same rock anymore. Just sharing a thought.

  4. yashika says:

    plaese let me know an ewssay on the topic CHANGE AND THE WORLD CHANGES FOR YOU in about 1000 words. PLEASE LET ME KNOW ABOUT ID AS SOOON AS POSSIBLE PLEASE

  5. abdul ghani says:

    mashallah mashallah

  6. Abhishek Kumar Gautam says:

    nice to see it…
    such a large crowd for the essay competition..
    you guys (don’t cheat)change yourself and the world changes for you..

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