Instruments in the hands of a higher force

The role of faith (and action) on the journey to change

Last week, a dear friend, mentor and advisor — Jawad Aslam — meet with our Amal team for a Lunch & Learn conversation in Lahore.

Jawad at an AMC project site outside of Lahore

He shared many incredible lessons from his +10-year journey building Ansaar Management Company (AMC) into one of the few scalable social enterprises in Pakistan. What struck me most was something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, but struggling to articulate: the interconnection between action and faith in this type of work.

Jawad talked about AMC’s original goal of becoming one of the world leaders in affordable housing and that — “through the grace of God and the efforts of the team” — they had been able to achieve that. He went on to stress the importance of fully committing to what we have control over (i.e., the team effort), and then having faith that God will use that effort according to his will.

And although these two ideas initially seemed to be linear or successive, what I’m learning is how interlinked and interdependent they are. As Jawad shared a few months back:

To be able to go a thousand miles, one must have faith that something good awaits at the end of those thousand miles. One must have the prospect of a promised land to have the strength to move. (Tolstoy)

In other words, in order to make the sacrifices and do the work, we need to have a deep faith that change can be achieved. (And in order to create change, one needs to make the sacrifices and do the work).

Jawad with the Amal team in Lahore (watch here if video is not displaying above)

Indeed, it seems like many of the most influential movements in the world have been lined with deep faith: the civil rights movement, independence in India, the anti-apartheid movement. One less-well-known example is the world’s largest eye-care service group, a financially sustainable social enterprise that is eliminating blindness by providing over half of it’s surgeries free of cost. Dr. V was their visionary founder whose driving force was a spirituality firmly anchored in practical action. As he once explained:

Founder of Aravind Eye Hospitals, Dr. V

Your higher consciousness is able to plan out everything, set a base for you to do your work… You are able to work with the great confidence that comes only with that faith and realization.

And so we attempt to bring in higher levels of consciousness and to work in a different method, as an instrument in the hands of a higher force.

Like Jawad, Dr. V and millions of others, our team at Amal is struggling tirelessly to do something that might seem impossible. And it’s easy to be consumed by the paralyzing question of whether our struggles will be enough. But perhaps this is a question that can’t possibly be answered, not at this point. Rather, it’s a question that we have to live — in the words of Rilke — and have faith that we can “one day, possibly without even knowing it, walk in to the answers.”

Many might see this from the outside and think of it as a blind confidence, or an unrealistic optimism, or a reality distortion, etc. But for Jawad, Dr. V, and so many others, this optimism is actually a deep seeded faith, that we can only invest our entire being into the work that is before us and give the results to a higher being: Instruments in the hands of a higher force.

“it is common to take a dog for a walk, it is less common to take a dream for a walk” || @amalacademy + @understory cofounder | nature novel in progress

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