In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring
I heard an amazing talk by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan of Bayyinah Institute at the recently held MAS-ICNA Conference in Chicago. I wanted to summarize the excellent points he made in this post, all the while acknowledging that these words here do not even begin to do justice to the eloquence of the speech Ustadh Nouman gave.
He began his talk speaking about our American Declaration of Independence, which mentioned certain unalienable Rights:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Yet, the pursuit of Happiness is perhaps the easiest one to achieve. For many people, eating a piece of chocolate can make them happy (including yours truly). There are other pursuits that are “higher” and take more work to achieve.
There is a pursuit for “Cool.” People pursue “being cool,” doing whatever the “cool kids” are doing so he or she can be like them. The song “Cool Kids” by Echosmith taps into this age-old pursuit on the part of many young people.
Others wish to pursue Popularity. They will do whatever to be the center of attention, to get the most “likes” on Facebook or the most “retweets” on Twitter. They thrive on being in the limelight all the time.
Others strive to pursue Prestige. They want to wear the nicest clothes; drive the fanciest cars; live in the most exclusive zip codes; and be counted among the most elite of people.
Still others work to pursue Money. They will do whatever it takes to make more and more money, to accumulate more and more wealth. They may look like paupers, but they are in fact worth millions. They could care less about anything else…except money.
Then there are those who pursue Excellence. They want to be the very best of the best; they are the ones who are not happy with a “B+,” but only want and expect an “A+” of themselves. They are those students, we all know who they are, who ruined the curve for the rest of us and would argue over the one point they missed on the exam.
Finally, over and above these, are those who pursue Impact. These people want to make a difference in the world around them. They want to make wherever they set foot a better place.
Of course, there are other pursuits that are not mentioned here. Nevertheless, these seven pursuits form a sort of pyramid, with each level requiring more and more work and containing fewer and fewer numbers of people.
Ustadh said that we should strive to be people of impact. We should strive to have an impact in the world around us, to make wherever we are a better place. This is the spirit of this hadith, which was reported in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad:
Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.”
Clearly, the person in the hadith will not see the sapling become a tree, but the Prophet (pbuh) still said to plant the sapling anyway.
In fact, that is the challenge of being people of impact: it is very likely we will not see the results of our work. Yet, that is not the point: the point is the effort itself, and God the Beloved will see that effort to its end. And, with His will, He will reward us handsomely for it.
Remember the prayer of Abraham (pbuh):
O our Lord: Behold, I have settled some of my offspring in a valley in which there is no arable land, close to Your sanctified Temple, so that, Our Lord, they might devote themselves to prayer. Cause Thous, therefore, people’s hearts to incline towards them and grand them fruitful sustenance, to that they might have cause to be grateful. (14:37)
He made this prayer when Mecca was empty desert. Look at Mecca now. Did Abraham see the fruits of his efforts? No. But he made them anyway.
The very mission of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was also the result of the prayer of Abraham, made at the very same time when Mecca was desert:
O our Lord! Raise up from the midst of our offspring an apostle from among themselves, who shall convey unto them Your messages and impart unto them revelation as well as wisdom, and cause them to grow in purity: for, verily, You along are Almighty, Truly Wise (2:129)
The Prophet (pbuh) came centuries later, and again, Abraham never lived to see the fruits of his efforts. He still made them anyway. So should it be with us.
Whatever it is that we can do: writing, speaking, volunteering, supporting financially, etc., we should use the talent God gave us and try to make a positive impact on the world around us. No effort is too small because, when we do the work and ask God for His help, the results will be both blessed and amazing.
Moreover, the pursuit of Impact will give us amazing byproducts. It will necessarily make us people of Excellence. And, God willing, He will make the earth and whatever is in it subservient to us during our quest to make this earth a better place. It is truly a win-win situation for all.
And so, as we mark the end of one year and the beginning of another, let us resolve to make 2016 the year when we begin on the path of the pursuit of Impact. And may the Beautiful, Beloved Lord our God bless our path on that pursuit and make our impact on this world as amazing as it could be.
A very Happy, Blessed, and Prosperous New Year to you and your family.