إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ
Innallāha lā yughayyiru mā bi-qawmin hattā yughayyirū mā bi-anfusihim
Surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition
(Sūratur Ra‘d, No. 13, Āyat 11)
This verse states an important truth that is the essence of growth and progress in human society. The keys to a progressive state for a group of people, or for that matter for an individual, lies firstly in their own hands. Whenever a condition of people changes for the better or for the worse, it has a lot to do with their own actions or inaction. Such changes are not accidental and random. It is an accumulation of the effects of continuous actions of the people that bring about a gradual change. The Grace of Allah in changing the condition for the better is not granted without the prerequisite of efforts by the people themselves.
For a community to change the members need to:
1) Realize that their condition is not optimal and needs improvement.
2) Have the desire to change.
3) Be strong willed and determined to implement changes.
4) Spread awareness within the community
5) Work on the required changes through a vision and a concrete plan.
6) Be consistent and persistent in the path they have charted
This verse is described in Tafsīr-e Namūne as one of the most important principles of human society. Success and failure of society rests on this principle. It is only if members of a society change themselves internally that the society can change externally. It is futile to hope for general overall improvements without individual change. There must be constant movement and activity towards a higher state.
People often attribute the success or failure of a community on external factors. Social influences in the environment effect a community but is not the sole determinant of its condition. It is the people who allow these factors to influence them and become its victims.
When we wish that our communities were different we must remind ourselves of this verse. Whatever we don’t like of it needs to be changed from within with each individual doing his part. This change would have ripple effects and transform the whole community.
Source: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirazi (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne.