In the late hours of Thursday evening/ early hours of Friday morning we heard the news that everyone knew was going to come, but no one knew exactly when. Nelson Mandela had passed away! People immediately hailed the ‘First Black President of South Africa’. His icon status seems to have skyrocketed with his death. All over the world people are in mourning. By donning the colours of the South African flag, even the Eiffel Tower and Empire State Building showed the world that they mourn the death of Mandela. News headlines are still filled news of his passing and events that have followed. The question has to be asked- What has made an otherwise ordinary man into a world hero?
I envisage people saying- DUH! Why ask such a silly question, isn’t it obvious? And then I’ll get the usual answers to this question, you know, answers which include the 27 years spent in prison, the fight for freedom, the uniting of a country and of course, the fact that he was instrumental in the demise of horrid apartheid. These are of course correct answers, but I think the thing that what made Nelson Mandela so popular was his HUMANITY.
The simple human values, moral conscience, caring, kindness, warmth, empathy, the need for unity- these are things that stand out, these are the things that turned him from a leader into an icon. Whether people admit this or not, in the end, it is the basic humanity that everyone is attracted to, because deep down basic human goodness and kindness is what we all seek. It is this very basic humanity that is sorely absent in so many world leaders today, and the contrast is vivid. This is evident as masses of people are in mourning, millions of people loved Nelson Mandela because he in some way or the other he reminded people that if you are good and humble then you can change the world, and let’s face it, how many people today actually stand by that principle?
He’s left behind a legacy people are saying, and this reminds me that to leave behind a legacy you don’t have to be rich, famous or beautiful. To leave behind a legacy all you have to do is be a good person! Display good manners and good character to the world, treat everyone with respect and remain humble, the good news is that we all have the ability to do achieve this, which makes it a possibility for all of us to leave behind a legacy. This is reassuring for those of us who watch people get to the top through any means necessary (most of which don’t exactly fall under the category of goodness).
And in our struggle to make a difference, in our insistence to leave a legacy of our own, we should not and cannot forget that the actions of every man is recorded by the greatest Being. Allah Almighty sees all that we do, Allah hears all that we say, Allah watches all of our actions and sometimes the people who have seemingly left nothing behind, those that we overlook and regard as insignificant- sometimes those people have left a greater legacy than any of us can fathom.
I do not minimize the efforts of Nelson Mandela when I say this, I simply point this out to remind us all that perhaps we don’t have to strive to be recognized by people. Surely Mandela didn’t sit back and say, ‘hey I want to become a world icon so let me fight for freedom and justice’. The world icon status was a by-product of him standing up for what was right, and at the time, this cost him his freedom and he was regarded as an outcast, a terrorist even. So yeah, sometimes standing up for what is right is the hardest thing to do, but it needs to be done, because doing the right thing in all circumstances whether you are the lowest of people or the highest, this is what turns ordinary people into legends.
And in our quest to do what’s right and while we work to achieve our mission of leaving something good behind, let us try and remember that our intentions are the most important and if we choose to act so that people can recognize us then we may end up wasting our lives, but if we perform deeds because we want Allah Almighty to recognize us, then well, we will be legends in our own way because anything done to please Allah will never go unnoticed.
When we remember Nelson Mandela, let us remember the good lessons that he has taught and let us practice upon it, otherwise, well, his legacy will just be a part of history and his efforts will not live on. The world needs good people, people who are unselfish and who put others before themselves, it’s time we make an effort to become these good people that the world longingly awaits.
May Almighty Allah always be our Guide, Inshaa-Allah!
Images from here