Engaged Surrender

WIN’s four core strands are underpinned by the concept of Engaged Surrender:

A nonviolent, process-oriented activism, expressed through a contemplative dimension within the framework of Islam (Surrender to the Divine).


Surrender to the Divine

Islam is essentially surrender of the individual self to the Divine. Related to this is that pure, natural state in which all human beings have been created – the state of fitrah. Conditioning can pull us away from this natural state. Re-establishing ourselves in the fitrah requires conscious work. Engaging outwardly from this state is what this concept, Engaged Surrender refers to, which we have defined in a way that we have considered to be appropriate to our context.


Mirroring the World We Want

Wisdom In Nature is a ‘process-oriented’ group. The idea is simple. We believe that how we do things is as important as what we want. Indeed our intention is to mirror the world we want in the way, in ‘how’ we do things. if we want a peaceful world, we must resolve inner conflicts and discover the peace in ourselves. If we want a just world, we must learn to live justly.

“If you want democracy, you must demonstrate its principles.”
Aung San Suu Kyi

At WIN we draw on a deep democratic approach within our own work: As part of this, we use consensus-decision-making. Through simple exercises we actively facilitate the development of a group mind, a coherence that enables a group to better co-create together. We might also consciously bring rank, privilege and power into awareness. Acknowledging issues like power inequalities can then help us draw in the marginalised voices, and thereby include as much wisdom as possible as we work together towards rich solutions that benefit everyone.

We also encourage the cultivation of compassion and mercy (rahmah), as we engage in challenging situations.

Additionally, a simple yet powerful principle is ensuring that our words are congruent with our actions.

“O YOU who have attained to faith! Remain conscious of God, and be among those who are true to their word!” (Qur’ an: 9:119)

Contemplative Social Change

Any one working for social change can put considerable focus on action. The Prophets themselves engaged in action as they attended to the restoration of balance in the world. At the same time, they drew on patience (sabr) and wisdom (hikmah). They spent time in reflection (tafakkur).

WIN’s approach includes a contemplative dimension. This facilitates a deeper engagement and enables us to better integrate our individual and collective experiences. This in turn supports us in making wiser choices.

In terms of faith, WIN respects the right of each individual to choose their own ‘way’, their deen.

“Let there be no compulsion in religion” (Qur’ an: 2:256)

At the same time, WIN is open to people of all faiths and beliefs who are able to work within our ethos. Indeed we have benefitted and look forward to continue benefitting from the wisdom and presence of members of our diverse world community.

The way demonstrated by the Prophet Mohammad was a flexible and inclusive path. Our contemplative activism carries with it inclusivity and diversity, supported and grounded in core Islamic principles (i.e. surrender to the Divine).


In a world in which economics does not add up, and power is concentrated in the hands of a few, WIN believes that working towards restoring balance (mizan) and wholeness is a natural response of any human being.

The means by which we engage in this work is also key.

It is useful thus to reflect on the life of people such as Abdul Ghaffar Khan (aka Badshah Khan) a Muslim Pathan who in the 20th century lived by principles of active non-violence, drawing on Islam. Badshah Khan raised a non-violent army of 100 000 Khudai Khidmatgar (“Servants of God”) that resisted British rule over India. Here he talks to his people about the power of patience (sabr) and righteousness (salih):

“I am going to give you such a weapon that the police and the army will not be able to stand against it. It is the weapon of the Prophet, but you are not aware of it. That weapon is patience and righteousness. No power on earth can stand against it.”

Related to this is a high principle in Islam, which can be seen as the creative restoration of justice (adl) and balance (mizan) as follows:

“But indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs.” (Qur’ an 42:43)

Yusuf Ali’s commentary for the above verse is helpful here:

“It is harder to be patient and forgive, and yet to get wrongs righted, as was done by the holy Prophet, than to bluster about and “punish the guilty” or “teach them lessons”. It may look like futility or lack of purpose, but in reality it is the highest and noblest form of courage and resolution. And it may carry out the purpose of reform and the suppression of evil even better than stem punishment. The gentleness of innocence often “persuades where stronger measures fail.”

At the same time, pushing away pain, or hurt, is not the same as healing it. Pain needs to be acknowledged and released, in order to restore wholeness and to support real forgiveness. This is the intention behind Restorative Justice, an approach embodied by The Truth and Reconciliation Commission chaired by Desmond Tutu in post-apartheid South Africa.

Through reflecting on and aspiring to the above principles we look towards the co-creation of social, political and economic systems that, unlike the dominant ones of today, do not inflict violence on the planet and on communities; that instead support the restoration of balance and wholeness, and include the currently marginalised – whether because of race, gender, class, age, religion and so forth – so we can all be empowered and have a voice over our lives and our future.


Further Resources

A Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela: by Nelson Mandela: Inspiring, vividly written with humour. Hard to put down!

Aung San Suu Kyi: The Voice Of Hope: Conversations with Alan Clements: A great book containing in-depth interviews of an amazing woman.

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr: Martin Luther King (Author); Edited by Clayborne Carson: A fascinating insight into the spirituality, tactics and personal journey of King as an influential figure in the Civil Rights Movement.

The Book of Essential Islam: The Spiritual Training System of Islam: By Ali Rafea, with Aliaa and Aisha Rafea. A comprehensive introduction into the different facets of life from an Islamic perspective: spiritual, family, social, political and economic.

Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth: by Mahadev H. Desai and Mahatma Gandhi: A book that takes the reader into the mind of this most remarkable man.

Muslim Peace Fellowship: Muslim organization specifically devoted to the theory and practice of Islamic nonviolence. (Based in USA)

Nonviolent Soldier of Islam: Badshah Khan – A Man to Match His Mountains: by Eknath Easearan: An deeply inspiring book. The life of Abdul Ghaffar Khan offers much practical wisdom for our times and deserves serious reflection by anyone engaged in peace building.