Gaza’s Rise: Inspiring the Muslim Ummah’s Collective Consciousness and Religiosity | Blog
Published: January 8, 2024 • Updated: January 12, 2024
Author: Dr. Osman Umarji
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
It has been over three months since the genocide began in Gaza. Muslims around the world have tuned into the most significant global event in decades and perhaps in their lifetimes; never before in history has a genocide been broadcast for the world to watch in horror, in real-time. Globally, Muslims have been on a roller coaster of emotions, witnessing both the painful destruction of Gaza and the beautiful resilience of its people.
In an attempt to shed light on the thoughts, emotions, and faith-based responses of Muslims around the globe, we at Yaqeen surveyed 1800+ English-speaking Muslims.
Changes in Religiosity
The assault on Gaza has been an incredible tribulation for the people of Gaza and the entire Muslim world. However, Allah tells us that the purpose of worldly tribulations is to awaken our hearts and make us turn back to Him. In this vein, 78% of those surveyed reported that their relationship with Allah has improved since the assault on Gaza began. This is an astounding proportion, and the reasons for this are likely many, including being reminded of death and needing to implore Allah to help alleviate the suffering of our brothers and sisters. However, one of the most powerful factors appears to be the unshakeable faith of the people of Gaza elevating the ummah’s religiosity and consciousness. Many have seen countless videos of the people of Gaza trusting in Allah (tawakkul) in every circumstance, including toddlers and children praising Allah and vowing to be patient and mothers and fathers graciously accepting the martyrdom of their children. Witnessing all of this has caused 91% of our respondents to state that the people of Gaza have given them ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot’ of religious inspiration, with 97% reporting being ‘quite’ or ‘extremely’ proud of the people of Gaza. The people of Gaza are giving dʾawah (calling people to Islam) globally, inspiring people to open up the Qur’an in search of the beliefs that we have witnessed providing them with so much strength. Evidently, the ummah’s spiritual awakening has been heavily impacted by reconnecting with the Qur’an and Sunnah.
We discovered that 85% of Muslims reported feeling ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot’ of comfort in the Qur’an, and 80% found similar levels of comfort in the biography (seerah) of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The Qur’an has come to life in new ways for Muslims from all levels of religiosity. The verses that we’ve read numerous times now have new meaning when we connect them to the situation in Gaza; the verses describing the attitude of the Prophet ﷺ and his companions during war appear to aptly describe the people of Gaza and the verses describing punishment for oppressors now make more sense. Ultimately, the Qur’an has taken on new relevance as it describes the situation unfolding before our eyes as if it were being revealed today.
The details of the afterlife found in the Qur’an and Sunnah have also brought tremendous comfort and clarity to Muslims worldwide. For example, 96% reported that knowing that our brothers and sisters who were martyred are alive in paradise brought ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot’ of comfort. The Prophet ﷺ beautifully explained this to his companions to motivate them and cheer them up, saying, “When your brothers were killed at Uhud, Allah put their souls in green birds that go down to the rivers of Paradise, eat its fruit, and nestle in lamps of gold under the shade of the Throne. Then, when they experienced the sweetness of their food, drink, and rest, they asked, ‘Who will tell our brothers about us that we are alive in Paradise provided with provision, in order that they might not be disinterested in jihad and recoil from war?’ Allah said, ‘I shall tell them about you’; so Allah sent down, ‘And do not consider those who have been killed in Allah’s path to be dead.’” Similarly, 94% said that knowing that oppressors (who don’t repent) will be punished was also a major source of comfort. The Qur’anic descriptions of how oppressors and their supporters will bicker in hellfire and blame one another provide the believers with certainty that justice will be served on the Day of Judgment (Qur’an 28:59-64). Strikingly, before the assault on Gaza began, the existence of hellfire and its punishment was a cause of doubt for some Muslims, but now it has become a source of conviction for many.
Inspiring Muslim Unity
Globally, Muslims are in agreement that the assault on Gaza has awoken the Muslim spirit and united the ummah. A sacred land from which the Prophet ﷺ ascended to heaven, and home to Masjid al-Aqsa, 70% of of our sample believe that the liberation of Palestine is a religious issue. Consequently, 93% believe that Palestine is ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important to them personally and 97% believe its liberation is a high priority to the Muslim world, with 70% saying it is the highest priority for the Muslim world. The masses are also in agreement that Muslim nations should not normalize relations with Israel, with 96% stating they are opposed to normalization and feel that it would cause additional harm to our brothers and sisters in Palestine.
The failure of Western and Muslim governments to help the Palestinians has also reinvigorated discussions and beliefs about the importance of a unified Islamic state for the well-being of the Muslim world. Regarding Western governments, 95% of people believe that their stance towards Palestine has been either ‘slightly’ (5%) or ‘extremely’ (90%) immoral. Regarding Muslim governments, 71% believe that their stance has been immoral, with 22% reporting ‘slightly’ immoral and 49% reporting ‘extremely’ immoral. With such low confidence in modern nation-states, 82% believe that the existence of a unified Islamic state is ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important for the future of the Muslim world. Furthermore, 87% believe that such a state would be ‘quite’ or ‘extremely’ helpful to the liberation of Palestine.
The awakening of the Muslim world and inspiration from the people of Gaza has led Muslims to strive in numerous ways to help the Palestinians. They are engaging in worship of various types, ritual and action-oriented, as a means of changing the situation. Regarding more ritual acts of worship, 99% have reported supplicating to Allah, 79% have increased in prayers, and 78% have donated money to relief in Palestine. Regarding activist behavior, 45% have attended a protest, over half (51%) have contacted politicians, and 91% are boycotting products and companies that support Israel. Additionally, the masses are raising their voices in support of Palestine, including 40% of working professionals raising awareness with their employers, 47% of students raising awareness on campus, and 89% posting on social media. Muslims believe that social media posts are changing the global narrative in favor of Palestine, with 64% being ‘quite’ or ‘very’ confident in the effects of these posts. Despite knowing their activism makes a difference, Muslims strongly believe that their ritual worship is far more effective in changing the situation for the Palestinians, with nearly 61% feeling their worship is ‘quite’ or ‘very’ effective compared to only 20% feeling similarly about their activism.
Impact on Emotions
The assault on Gaza has affected nearly every believer on earth. Reading and watching the news and seeing images of innocent men, women, and children martyred in Gaza has led to feelings of sadness, guilt, anger, and many other emotions. We found the emotion most frequently experienced by the ummah was sadness, with 93% of Muslims reporting feeling sad ‘often’ or ‘almost always.’ This feeling captures the sentiments of the hadith that the ummah is like one body, and if the people of Gaza are in pain, the entire ummah feels that pain. Another frequently felt emotion was anger, with 82% feeling angry ‘often’ or ‘almost always.’ The ummah is furious at the terrorism and genocide being committed by Israel, as well as the apathy (and/or assistance) of Western and Muslim nations. Although anger is often criticized as being blameworthy, it is important to remember that anger can be praiseworthy if it motivates righteous action. The Prophet ﷺ himself would get angry when the commands of Allah had been transgressed and Imam al-Shafi said that anyone who should become angry but doesn’t is a donkey.
The other emotions worthy of discussing are the ummah’s feelings of hope and hopelessness. Both hope and hopelessness were reported equally often, between ‘sometimes’ and ‘often’ on average. Hope was associated with beliefs that Muslims had agency in helping Palestine and that their individual actions were making a difference. Hope was also linked to increased perceptions of global Muslim unity and an improved relationship with Allah. Hopelessness, on the other hand, was generally related to worse outcomes (e.g., believing Muslims have less agency, individual actions have less of an impact).
However, it is worth noting that many people often felt both emotions simultaneously. Although it may seem strange to experience hope and hopelessness together, this combination of emotions has been well documented in medical settings with patients. It may come about in this context as Muslims feel hopeless regarding one outcome but hopeful for another. For example, someone may feel hopeless that the genocide will stop soon, but they may be hopeful that the martyrs find peace in paradise. Alternatively, someone may feel hopeless that Palestine will be free soon, but hopeful that it will be free in the distant future. If one of the goals they hope for cannot be achieved, people may shift to other goals they are hopeful for. This has been beautifully stated as “diversifying and redirecting hope.” Alternatively, people may feel personally hopeless to help Palestine but hopeful that Allah can and will. Hope in such circumstances may function as a buffer against the spiritual and psychological harms of hopelessness.
Ultimately, we have to remind ourselves that hope and optimism are from the Sunnah, as the Prophet ﷺ encouraged us to be optimistic, saying, “When one of you calls upon Allah, let him hope for the greatest of things. Verily, nothing has any greatness over Allah.”
The people of Gaza have shown the Muslim world what submission to God looks like. From witnessing a child pleading with first responders to dig her parents and siblings from under the rubble before tending to her own needs, to accepting martyrdom rather than abandoning their homes on sacred land, the people of Gaza have reminded us how to praise Allah in every situation. They have shown us that the stories of the companions’ resolve and patience can be emulated in our lives and that they are not fairy tales or folklore. They have modeled for us how to deprioritize the dunya (this world) and prioritize the ākhirah (the afterlife). They have done more dʾawah through their beautiful resolve than most of us have in our lifetimes.
Allah is infinitely wise and is the best of planners. Although it may be difficult for our hearts and minds to understand why things unfold as they do, the people of Gaza remind us to put our trust in Allah and have full conviction in His promise. We are grateful for our brothers and sisters in Gaza, honored to be one ummah with them, and seek forgiveness from them and from Allah for not doing more for the cause of Palestine. May Allah grant them victory over the oppressors and allow us to be a part of their liberation. Ameen.
1 Demographics of the sample: 74% female; 61% live in North America, 13% live in Europe, 18% live in Asia, and 6% live in Africa; 41% were under 35 years of age; 50% were South Asian, 17% Arab, and 10% Black/African.
2 Qur’an 30:41, 32:21.
3 Sunan Abū Dawūd, no. 2520.
4 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 6011; Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 2586.
5 Mark D. Sullivan, “Hope and Hopelessness at the End of Life,” The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 11, no. 4 (2003): 393–405.
6 Sullivan, “Hope and Hopelessness.”
7 Jenny M. Y. Huen, Brian Y. T. Ip, Samuel M. Y. Ho, and Paul S. F. Yip, “Hope and Hopelessness: The Role of Hope in Buffering the Impact of Hopelessness on Suicidal Ideation,” PloS One 10, no. 6 (2015): e0130073.
8 Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān, no. 896.