With the Name of Allah, the extremely Merciful at this very moment, and the extremely Merciful at all times.
Allah says in Surah As-Saff, Chapter 61 verse 2-3:
“O you who have believed, why do you say what you do not do?” (61:2)
“Great is hatred in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do.” (61:3)
The pen, what has been written with it and continues to be written with it, has a fascinating legacy worthy of reflection. Allah Himself swore by the pen in Surah Al-Qalam (Note: Click for tafsir), and that alone gives it importance. The pen is what writes the deeds that we have done, are doing, and will do. It records what we say, hear, and witness. And this writing of the Angels for us will continue until we pass.
A common saying goes: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” It is true that that the pen can stop battles, as in the Treaty of Hudaibiyah- the victory of peace at the time of the Prophet (saw). But it is also true that the pen is what starts battles. Through their words, writers of the past encouraged revolution by motivating the oppressed to rise against and topple oppressive regimes.
The words written by the pen hurt people- sometimes worse than physical force- but they also heal people. The pen may motivate and uplift people, but can also subjugate and oppress the people. The pen fosters knowledge, yet it can also foster ignorance. It is the proof of the truth within history, but it is also the proof of the lies within history. It is what allows the scholar to have students across the globe; to teach people he would never dream of teaching. But the pen also allows those who hate Islam to spread lies regarding it. It is what keeps us up at night, either writing with it to turn in our papers in the morning, or reading something that is written with it that is too interesting to put down.
The pen is what gives the voiceless a voice, capable of eliciting powerful emotion and message through simple words. To have an idea of its power- watch this scene from “My Left Foot,” the incredible true story of Christy Brown, a man almost entirely paralyzed from cerebral palsy, but still able to communicate with the world through his words- using his left foot.
The pen we write with is the same, yet the message is received so differently. By Allah’s will, the pen will serve whatever purpose you write with, whatever ideas you spread with it, and whatever aim you wish to accomplish with it. That is its power.
However, in the era we live in, the pen has made a drastic transformation…into the shape of a keyboard. Ink has been replaced with battery life. “Turning the page” has been replaced with “scrolling down.”
Yet, its power remains.
Though I may not be a seasoned writer or an English major, writing is what I’ve always enjoyed. So when my community involvement became limited due to my schedule, I decided to take a step out of my comfort zone and vault myself into the online community- where everyone has a voice and an opinion, because everyone has a pen.
I remember when the occupy protests were in full force, I told my brother it needed a unified voice, a leader that could rally the masses in an organized direction- a figurehead like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, or Mandela- to be successful. My brother replied: “No one would hear him, there are too many voices. It’s too noisy.”
And to a certain extent, that’s true. Just read the comments on articles on major news site’s- it’s quite noisy and littered with anger and emotion. Look at our own communities and organizations- compare how many times we rally behind a unified opinion versus the many different, stubborn, irreconcilable opinions that are tossed around.
The world has indeed become noisy- it’s a natural consequence of everyone using the pen. Nevertheless, there may come a time amongst the background noise when someone’s voice will be heard, Allah will bless it, and the people will rally around it. A voice calling to peace and justice, to safeguarding humanity and uplifting moral standard, and to love and respect.
But that won’t come easy, because that voice must belong to one who acts by what he says and writes. After all, what do we think of a person who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk? More importantly, what is he in the sight of Allah?
The pen may be light and easy to write with, but the burden of practicing what one writes about is quite heavy.
May Allah make us among the sincere, those who do as we say and do as we write, ameen.