“I hear the clacking of the mill, but I do not see any flour!” 
For young Muslims growing up in a Britain, there is certainly a feeling that leadership is found wanting – the sort of leadership that requires them to steer the proverbial ummah bus. Often times, we find those who throw insults and accusations are the least likely to contribute anything worthwhile. This, of course, does not mean that we downplay every critique. Rather, those who offer constructive criticism act as vital checks and balances as we seek out the truth in any given matter: they are mirrors that show us our blind spots. With the right intention, such mirrors assist us a great deal in refining and sharpening our approach.
While it is expected that some may be reluctant to lead, the least they can do is to offer guidance to our young. Time and time again we see a creative burst of ideas and resourcefulness from our younger generation. But just as God nurtured our Prophet, in order for him to become what he was destined to be, our young require nurturing. This kind of cultivation requires a blend of commitment, patience, encouragement, love, honest advice, and gentleness. The Qur’an alludes to this:
‘Then [it was] by a mercy from God that thou were gentle with them. Hadst thou been severe [and] hard-hearted they would have scattered from about thee.’
So for anyone actively working to nurture the next generation – whether that is in scholarship, community building, outreach and engagement, charity, institution building, or whatever else – we have little time to entertain those who are standoffish yet are minded-enough to throw insults. The very fact that God has kept us engaged in good works, ḥasanāt, is a mercy and favour from Him. After all, we know what the devil can do with idle hands. In a climate that may seem hostile at times to Muslims, we still maintain that the overwhelming majority of our non-Muslim friends and neighbours wish us no harm. Like us, they just want to get on with their lives. However, that bridge to reach out to other communities, to get to know one another failed to gain traction because we were told for a number of decades that we didn’t need it. We now know the folly of that advice.
Let me also point out that as a community we need to work with fellow Muslims with whom we may disagree with. Most of us know little about our theological or political differences, and even if we did, chances are we would quickly come to realise that such differences are based on perspectives or semantics, on the way we understand words. For those who want to maintain walls between our communities, one must ask: are differences so significant as to hinder support for the work to nurture the young? Did not the Companions maintain decorum and respect for one another even when they disagreed? However, I am not for one moment advocating that we should not have differences, whether theological, political or in our approach. Differences are no doubt part of the rich intellectual tapestry that makes up our ummahatic experience and a means of compassion. To disagree is to be human. To hate is not.
Our faith, like our role model and exemplar, the Prophet Muḥammad, is a beacon of subtlety, mercy and compassion while it compels us to strive to the highest level of purification, humility, magnanimity, and justice. One must therefore ask, from where do we find that the Prophet discriminated against those of other faiths or none? Has the spirit of his last sermon been lost on us? If he were to be with us today, would he not reach out to everyone? Especially and not least, those who are most hard hit by the injustices of our current environment? Did he not reason and communicate with leaders and people in power in order to spread the message of Islam? Was not his message universal? Isn’t there an obvious discrepancy in our lack of attentiveness to this crucial aspect of our faith?
Some will retort, but we must put our house in order first. But what it assumes is that they are mutually exclusive: you can’t put your house in order and reach out to the wider community. This is a fallacy. How often are we told, as I was, that calling fellow Muslims to God is in fact a call to oneself first and foremost? Secondly, as those who engage non-Muslims will know, it is, much like calling our fellow Muslims back to God, a truly uplifting, iman-invigorating and empowering experience. Thirdly, since the Qur’ānic perspective guides our approach we must seek its directive. What we find is a distinctively universal call. After all, the majority of the Qur’ān was revealed in Mecca, where Muslims lived for 13 years as a minority in a hostile environment. Yet in such a context God revealed to the Prophet a universal message. Therefore, irrespective of our state as an ummah we must continue to promote our faith as a means of its preservation. The first and most general way to do this is to ensure that the wider society experience a reasonable exposure to our faith. Isn’t it time, then, we nurtured young confident believers? Isn’t it time we took an honest hard look at the way we educate our young minds to create an elevated and honoured community – as God lovingly called us?
As for what binds us, our belief is that it is God Who is in control and watching us. Watching us see how we rise with magnanimity and take on this responsibility to show the value of our faith. Is it not fatalism to sit idly by while others, who do not represent us, nay, will not represent us, talk for us? Is this not the time to speak for ourselves, to take control of our narrative? Did not Musa and Harun stand up, with God beside them, to deliver His reminder – with gentleness and humility – at a risk to their own lives?
Some may engage in a legal, or fiqhi, discussion to enumerate the merits of all of this. Our legal tradition is important. We are conceived in it. But we must remember first and foremost that Islam also has a spiritual ethic (ihsani) that talks to us as human beings, because we care and we crave kindness and compassion. At the same time, we ought to appreciate that there are many things that are, not strictly ‘Islamic.’ As Dr. Sherman Jackson articulated:
By taking the Shariah as its point of departure, it looks at the latter’s self-imposed boundary between a mode of assessing human acts that is grounded in concrete revelational sources (and/or their extension) and modes of assessing human acts that are independent of such sources, yet not necessarily outside of God’s adjudicative gaze. This non-shar’ī realm, it is argued, is the realm of the “Islamic secular.” It is “secular” inasmuch as it is differentiated from Sharia as the basis for assessing human acts. It remains “Islamic,” however, and thus “religious.” in its rejection of the notion of proceeding in its rejection of the notion of proceeding as “if God did not exist.” 
We must not compromise on what we believe: in this lies our greatest strength and anchor. One that no matter how tempest the seas may be, all that are on board, much like the ark of Noah will prosper. So that a new generation anchored in Godliness that is truly at home in Britain can come forth. My advice to those working hard to serve the ummah and society is to remain focused on what needs to be done. As for those who dream big for the Muslim ummah they will have to make the largest sacrifices. For the rest, there is plenty of space at the back.
‘As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears’ – Rumi
And only God knows best.
 This is an Arabic proverb, which is used against someone who is saying much but does little or who promises something but completes nothing.
 Qur’ān, 3:159.
 See for example 25:1 of the Qur’ān.
 For a more penetrating insight, you are encouraged to read Dr Jackson’s paper ‘The Islamic Secular.’