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May 24, 2004
Towards A Brighter Tomorrow: Why Muslim Students Should Consider A Career in Law

by Saleem Safdar

The Muslim Ummah is experiencing one of the worst periods in its history in terms of a lack of scholarship, leadership, and unity. As a result, Muslims have been the target of systematic oppression throughout the world. For many Muslims residing in the West, the precariousness of their predicament lies in their "otherness". With characteristics symptomatic of a diaspora, Western Muslims reside neither in their motherland, nor are they able to fully assimilate into secular American society, as that would translate into an abandonment of their traditional values. In what W.E.B DuBois coined "dual-consciousness," the minority has the unique ability to understand things from two distinct identities - that of the oppressed minority and that of the oppressor-majority. Today, the majority of young Muslims residing in the West experience dual-consciousness in two ways. Firstly, for immigrants and their children, they see from the perspective of their native country as well as from the perspective of an American. Secondly, thoughtful Muslims are able to see from the perspective of the oppressed Muslim as well as from the vantage of the oppressor-majority, whether it be in America or elsewhere.

While this dual-consciousness may serve as an advantage to younger Muslims in the West in terms of conveying the message of Islam and the Muslim perspective to their curious neighbor, classmate, or co-worker, many of the elder generation who immigrated to America, the U.K., or elsewhere are handicapped by inferiority complexes coupled with an unqualified fear of exclusion. To the extent that many of our parents' generation came to the West with the sole objective of seeking greater financial security while the younger generation of Western-born and bred Muslims are more concerned with recapturing their identity and enhancing Muslim causes of morality and social welfare, priorities have shifted. Although many of the younger generation still follow the age-old formula of becoming a doctor or engineer, a growing number of youth are looking to alternate careers that offer more relevance to the issues that are of importance to them.

Despite the overwhelming number of Muslim doctors in the health care profession in the West, there has been virtually no change in the plight of Muslims politically and in terms of their rights. Although a sad indicator of the political apathy of the Muslim medical community in the West, it is not to be unexpected. The goal of most individuals entering the medical profession is not to effect social and political change.

A shared trait by many individuals who served as an impetus for social change and justice is that they had legal training. Two such examples of recent memory for those of the Indian subcontinent are Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi. A legal education may also lead itself to a life in the political arena, in which getting the Muslim voice heard is imperative for the safeguarding of future Muslim generations in Western countries and elsewhere. It is the Muslim lawyers of the West that will translate Islam and the Muslim interest into fair laws for its practitioners.

Law is empowerment. It is the social contract every citizen has agreed to in being a part of civil society. It provides guidelines so that individuals may carry out their livelihoods with relative peace of mind, so they may travel uninhibited by the fear of highway bandits, and so they might live a happy and fulfilling life. The law, however, is an ever evolving entity. Norms change with the social climate, which in turn are translated everyday into new legislation. When any group fails to participate in the daily evolution of law, whether it be in a federal courthouse or on the steps of the U.S. Congress, it relinquishes itself to a position of the oppressed. No one else will champion the Muslim voice. It must be carried by the strong, trial-tested, and morally grounded voices of Muslims who realize that their sphere of influence is not limited to the American legal world, but is reverberated throughout the world in how the Muslim is seen and ultimately treated. The young generation of Western-raised Muslims have the ability to communicate effectively with their peers and society at large using the same lingo and jargon, whereas many of the generation preceding them were hampered linguistically. The young generation also has a greater responsibility to voice the Muslim cause and communal concerns, both domestic and international, in light of many mistreatments of recent date of Muslims in the law. From the attack on Muslim charitable organizations and Muslim immigrants through the use of "secret evidence," the illegal treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners as "detainees" in contravention of the Geneva Accords, and attempts to outlaw the wearing of hijab as seen in places like Alabama and realized in France - Muslims are increasingly finding themselves the victims of unjust laws. For Muslims considering law school, the aforementioned should be inspiration enough to further explore the opportunities and benefits a law degree might provide to oneself, one's family, and one's community.

Allah (SWT) says in the Quran, Surah IV, verse 135: "O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: For God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do." The Western way of life, blemished with its many excesses and luxuries, barters some and beguiles others into a servitude of passivity and the maintenance of the status quo. The Muslim way of life requires that one not accept the status quo - but rather that one speak out for truth and justice.

Muslim college and university students who have a desire to help the cause of justice and truth should consider a legal education. In America, it is suggested that students take their LSAT (Law School Aptitude Test) in their third year. A helpful website with information on the law school application process is http://www.lsac.org. For those young Muslims pursuing other interests and fields, there are many ways in which to make one's voice heard. The roles of a Muslim activist are many, and whether through writing letters to one's local newspaper or congressman, volunteering for Muslim civil rights groups, or even picking up a stray piece of trash from the front of one's Masjid, one is making a difference. The key is in making the effort.

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Nadia said

Wow Mashallah. This article is excellent. I agree 100 % with everything. Muslims need to make Islam and other Muslims stronger through their careers but they will only be able to do so if all the Muslims direct their efforts towards the pleasure and approval of Allah(swt). This way they will really be making a difference.

on May 24, 2004 9:30 AM
saleem said

salam alaykum. actually, the complete title was "Why Young Muslims Should consider a Career in Law" but I guess it got cut off somehow.

on May 24, 2004 11:33 AM
saleem said

jazakallah khair for fixing the title so quickly.

Muslim students who are considering law school should remember the latin maxim that says: "The laws aid the vigilant, not the negligent." I pray that Allah (SWT) brings forth from among today's Muslim youth a group of intelligent and motivated attorneys whose vigilance will benefit the Muslim community in the West as well as the rest of the world. Ameen.

on May 24, 2004 12:14 PM
Justoju said


Despite my mixed and often contradictory feelings regarding naseeb.com and its pros and cons, I think this stands a really good chance of being accepted as a featured vibe. It would get your message a wider audience inshaAllah.


on May 24, 2004 1:30 PM
Gillette said

Reprinting is all good and well, as long as "from HidayaOnline.com, an online publication of the Islamic Society of Rutgers University" is attached to it.

on May 24, 2004 3:54 PM
Saima said

"The key is in making the effort."

Since July of 2002, I've been a pharmacist working in a community pharmacy whose patients are pretty demanding. President Bush visited that town and so you can imagine how many influential entities reside there. They want their prescriptions accurate, concise and FAST. All with a smile and a friendly attitude. You really don't know how much of an influence you have on others just by BEING nice. Just by being truthful and honest and showing that you care and being PATIENT. Exemplifying yourself as the muslim that you know you are rather than the muslim that THEY think they know you as.

SubhanAllah. It's pretty cool.

on May 24, 2004 9:45 PM
aida said

assalaam alikum:

i agree comepletely. we will not get a piece of the pie until someone from our community sits at the table. what many first and second generation muslims i think fail to realize is that America is now their home; and that they are responsible for what their government does so they therefore must act proactively if they want to change things. its time to get out of our boxes and start reaching out to fellow americans WHILE at the SAME time preserving and maintaining our deen.

on May 25, 2004 5:52 PM
JustAJoe said

"its time to get out of our boxes"

There were once some people who all saw their lives like empty boxes
They looked around the world collecting up the things they liked
They filled their lives and boxes with the goodies that they gathered
And they all felt in control, content, and they all felt all right.

They climbed inside their boxes
They settled with their trinkets
They niether looked nor learned much more and shut their lids up tight

(some lyrics I cant remember)

They smiled there inside and they all felt in their darkness that their world was clear and bright.

-- Dawud Wharnsby Ali, Prophet's Hands album

(I simply could not help myself)

on May 26, 2004 2:09 PM
Yasser Hamdani said

Wow... an intelligent article from ISRU???

The world must be coming to an end....

on October 13, 2004 9:53 AM
Humayun said

"Wow... an intelligent article from ISRU???

The world must be coming to an end...."

-- Asalamalikom....

I dont get what thats supposed to mean? You mean to say people in ISRU are dumb? Or your just too smart for us? Its easy to talk over the internet buddy... maybe you should just come to ISRU and say it...............and dont worry will wear glasses so we wont be blinded by your intellectual brightness...

Dont hate, partcipate ahaha

on October 13, 2004 4:03 PM
Justoju said

Guys, its almost Ramadan. Chillax.

on October 13, 2004 7:35 PM
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