Have pity on the sincere volunteers who give up their time and expend all of their energy supporting organisations afflicted by either corruption or incompetence at the top. They are the exploited foot soldiers of the cause, blissfully ignorant of the rot on high. They are an organisation’s greatest asset: always the believer, full of passion, sharing the good news, naively obedient and faithful. Irregardless of malfeasance amongst their leaders, without a doubt these armies of volunteers will be rewarded abundantly for their good deeds by the Lord of all the worlds.
But as for the leadership: have they forgotten their meeting with their Lord? Is the elixir of power and money and fame too delicious to shun, or too addictive to abandon? When alerted to wrongdoing, they refuse to act, going on the defensive instead. There are too many vested interests, too many venal relationships, too much to be lost. A post or salary stands in the way of honour. You protect your own to protect yourself: kill or be killed, dog eat dog. How many an apparently benevolent organisation lacks all semblance of compassion within?
Ultimately, once they realise that the organisation does not adhere to the very principles it claims to uphold, the volunteers and activists on the frontline leave. An activist, growing increasingly disillusioned with the organisation he has served for a decade, compiles a dossier of issues to bring to the attention of its leadership.
A case of embezzlement concerning the development of a mosque; a false accusation and the creation of witnesses to protect a member of the organisation, to the detriment an innocent man who had devoted his life to the project, now sabotaged and destroyed. A case of a preacher engaging in illicit relationships with scores of female followers; promising the world and then abandoning them; and then silencing them with underhand means and threats. Another case of a preacher who embezzled hundreds of thousands from people who had donated from their meagre resources towards a project. And another of a travel agent defrauding pilgrims hoping to travel to Mecca for Hajj or Umrah.
The concerned activists hands the information over to the leadership for them to investigate, confirming receipt. And then what? Nothing. The quietest of reactions: keep this to yourself. And so the volunteer, now heartbroken, walks away, realising that the high values they claimed to represent were nothing but a mirage. “I do not want anything to do with them,” says the activist today, “I no longer consider myself part of this community.”
But hasn’t it always been this way, throughout our history, with a few rare exceptions? Weren’t many of our caliphs and the men around them the worst scoundrels, despite applying the Shariah to others? Perhaps so. But for the disillusioned activist, it is as if it has now reached proportions never seen before. In the past people knew that there was a contradiction between behaviour and the values they claimed, but now the values in themselves appear to have been sullied. Offered the choice of cleaning their homes and putting their house in order, or going on the defensive, these organisations choose the latter. All of a sudden they are in denial, claiming that they had no idea. Or better still: it is a great plot hatched by longtime foes.
Some acolytes, raised on the binary vision of the good and the evil, are immediately sold on conspiratorial claims, and are convinced by them without a doubt. But other volunteers, who had given years of their lives to the cause, see right through them, for they saw this coming. When you walk away from your ethics, so Allah will walk away from you, leaving you to your own devices. You may think that everything is fine, but one day it will all blow up in your face. The volunteer who saw it coming recognises that the sudden downfall was of the organisation’s own making.
All over the world, activists and volunteers give years of their time in good faith, only to withdraw when it becomes clear that the organisation they have been working for is either corrupt or incompetent, or both. Where in the world are the clean organisations? They are few and far between. Volunteers and workers on the ground do their best at their level, oblivious to the astronomical levels of corruption at the top. They are not to blame, but nevertheless the responsibility weighs on them heavily. The disillusioned activist, having witnessed so much abuse in the name of wealth and power, soon concludes that not having money is his only salvation, and that to withdraw is his only reprieve.
Our impending downfall is entirely of our own making. We were not just or honest or sincere: we were in it for something else entirely. Our Lord recounted numerous tales of those who broke their covenant before us, and what became of them. Why on earth we think ourselves immune to divine justice is a mystery. But lo: without a doubt, if we do not put our house in order, our harrowing and precipitous downfall certainly lies ahead. And we only have ourselves to blame.