Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Aha! Moment: Two-Way Risk

We have lots of Aha! Moments in MAS Youth. And they’re happening all across the nation at different rates and different points in time. So a map of the MAS Youth nation could look like this:

(Okaaayyyy. I have a little too much time on my hands)

Aha! Moments happen when something that seemed scary, obscure, or impossible suddenly becomes a crystal-clear matter of course. Consensus is built, people converge. Sometimes, these moments come on suddenly. It’s a thrilling experience, washed in relief, excitement, and new-found confidence. You have a conversation with another youth worker, he or she makes you think really hard, and …CLICK! Other times, it is the tipping point of a cumulative mass of information, exchanges, observations, and drilled-in messages.

I caught a recent Aha! Moment at the MAS Youth Directors’ Meeting in Detroit in January. Dr. Souheil Ghannouchi, the president of MAS, spent many hours talking with attendees and clarifying the national vision. I learned to think in terms of two-way risk, and Aha! I spent the entire trip home wondering why I hadn’t seen it this way before.

We usually think of risk in one direction. When we approach new directions in MAS and MAS Youth, we become fixated on the risks. We weigh the risks of the new approach with a hypothetical risk-free scenario. We worry that we will dilute the understanding, compromise on development, spread ourselves thin, or give the wrong message. We worry about what people will say or think. These risks, formidable and sobering to every single worker, often make us settle back into the status quo.

Risk, however, is a two-way street. There is a risk of moving forward, but there is often a greater risk of staying where we are. The risk of not doing something should be scaled and measured with equal apprehension. We become desensitized and blind to the greater risk of remaining in our current situation, only because we are used to it. The risks of staying still and confining ourselves to a comfort zone are actually enormous—falling short of our mission, not conveying Islam to everyone we could, losing momentum because we are unable to replace ourselves, and ultimately not earning the pleasure of Allah. When I see risk as a two-way street, it is better to move forward and deal with the risks, working to minimize them in every way and take precautions, than turn away from them all together succumbing to uncertainty and hesitation.

Concert tours, MAS on campus, attracting non-practicing crowds, taking our message to gang members or inviting a drug addict to a MAS Youth usra, trying new methods and pushing new leaders forward—yes, there are risks! But there are even greater risks of turning away from those opportunities in order to protect a perceived 'safe' situation. By doing so, we are only driving in the other direction, towards another set of risks just as daunting and perhaps of greater consequence.

This Aha! Moment was inspiring and empowering for me. Instead of working to avoid risk, we should move forward in the direction that has the greatest potential, holding in our hearts the highest, greatest, sincerest intentions we can muster. And all the while, we anticipate the risks and design creative solutions to the new problems that will undoubtedly arise. I pray that Allah swt guides us to what is right and makes us always aware and humbled at how deeply we are in need of His guidance. Our eyes must always be open to new alternatives and better solutions, but meanwhile we have to make sure we are heading in the right direction on a two-way street.

1 comment:

Fariha said...

this is great Maha, I'm glad you shared it with us here. I definitely think the single biggest roadblock we put up in MAS is being afraid to stray from the "comfort zone." So many of my frustrations lie with this. Thanks for laying it out in clear-to-understand terms, makes it possible to take the next step :)