When we look at the state of the world and, more importantly, the state of our own selves, it is easy to get overwhelmed. It is easy to feel that there is no point. It’s not worth the effort. The challenge is too great and the resources too little. Why bother trying to make the world a better place? Why bother improving our own selves, when it is an near impossible task? When no matter how much effort we exert, it will result in, at most, a drop in the bucket?
One of the most motivating hadith in this regard is when the Prophet ﷺ said, If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it. [Musnad Ahmad]
Of course, the Day of Judgment is the end of the line, literally the end of time as we know it. And saplings require long periods of time to become mature trees that bear fruit. What is the point of planting a sapling when the Day of Judgment is about to take place?
No matter how bleak the circumstances and how low the chances of getting results, we have to keep on working.
There are countless scenarios where we can apply this advice. You might be a dawah coordinator faced with rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the wake Donald Trump. You might be a volunteer at a masjid, frustrated out of your mind by an incompetent and irresponsible masjid board. You might be a sibling and your brother or sister just don’t seem to want to get his or her act together. Should you just give up?
In such scenarios, practicality is not the concern. The least practical thing to do on the cusp of the Last Day is to plant a tree. But practicality is not the only reason a believer takes action. It’s not even the main reason.