Commencement advice to students – Part 2

We continue from where we ended last Friday about the things to keep in mind as you negotiate college life. I dealt with four things last week; Factor Allahﷻ into the equation, always be thankful, forgive others, and seek forgiveness. Today let us look at six more to complete the ten.

5.  Never compromise your legacy. Never lose sight of your purpose. Ask, ‘Why am I here?’ Write it down and stick it on your wall. Look at it every morning and re-dedicate yourself to that. Stick to that. Remember why you joined college. Take care of your health. Eat healthy. Stay away from all substance use and abuse. Exercise regularly. Ensure you get sufficient sleep. Be regular in your habits. A schedule and a strong routine are the best aids to high productivity. Make one and stick to it. But remember why you joined college. You joined to earn a degree with the highest possible scores. By all means make friends, have fun, and play sports. But your purpose is to study. So, that must be the first priority over everything else. There will be times when all sorts of other things will seek priority. Different issues will demand importance. Friends will pull in various directions. At such times look at your purpose and know that everything else must be subordinated to that if you are serious about success. Ask, ‘What do I want to be remembered for?’ Focus is the art of ignoring fluff. Allahﷻ told us why He created us and said:

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ ٱلْجِنَّ وَٱلْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ

Zariyaat 51: 56    And I (Allah) created not the jinn and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).

And He told us why He created us collectively as Muslims and said:

كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ ٱلْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِٱللَّهِ

A’al Imraan 3: 110    You [Muslims] are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma’ruf (all good in Islam) and forbid Al-Munkar (all forbidden in Islam), and you believe in Allah.

Ibn Umar (R) reported that Rasoolullah said, “The most beloved people to Allah

 are those who are most beneficial to people. The most beloved deed to Allah

 is to make a Muslim happy, or to remove one of his troubles, or to forgive his debt, or to feed his hunger. That I walk with a brother regarding a need is more beloved to me than that I seclude myself in this mosque in Madina for a month. Whoever swallows his anger, then Allah will conceal his faults. Whoever suppresses his rage, even though he could fulfill his anger if he wished, then Allah will secure his heart on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever walks with his brother regarding a need until he secures it for him, then Allah will make his footing firm across the bridge on the day when the footings are shaken.” [(Sahih) al-Muʻjam al-Awsat]

All our speech and actions must be judged against this criterion; is it beneficial for everyone. The fundamental belief of our faith is that we are accountable to Allahﷻ from Whom nothing is hidden.

6. Everyone has friends. The worst of them and the best of them, all have friends. Ask Mother Teresa and ask any drug dealer or pickpocket. They all have friends. The key is to have the right kind of friends. Who is the right friend? Someone you can look up to. Someone you can learn from. Someone who challenges you to be your best. Someone who tells you what you need to hear, not only what you want to hear. It is not how many friends you have but who those friends are, which is important. Remember, a friend is a real human being who you know and can talk to. Someone who will pick up your call. Someone who will stand up for you and walk with you on the cold, dark road of your night, asking for nothing in return. A friend is someone who will take the bullet for you. If you are lucky, you will have one like that in your entire life. I was. I had. Therefore, value friends and tell them that you value them. And, before I forget, FB friends are not friends. They are people being polite to you so that you will be polite to them in return. It ends with that. Ask, ‘What kind of friend am I to my friends?’ Do you measure up to the same standard? Being a leader means to take hard decisions and not follow the herd. Sheep have lots of company all the way to the abattoir.

ٱلْأَخِلَّآءُ يَوْمَئِذٍۭ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ إِلَّا ٱلْمُتَّقِينَ

Zukhruf 43: 67    Friends on that Day will be foes one to another except Al-Muttaqun

Look at your friend and ask, ‘Is this someone who will stand by me on the Day when nobody will stand by anyone? And is this someone that I want to be with when we are resurrected before Allahﷻ? Ask yourself, ‘What am I learning from my friend?’ Is that something beneficial? Are you learning manners, kindness, service, courage, patience or the opposites of these?

Narrated Abu Hurairah that Rasoolullah said, “A man follows the religion of his friend. So, each one should consider whom he makes his friend.” [Tirmidhi]

The word in the Hadith is ‘Deen’ i.e., way of life. It doesn’t mean that you will convert to another religion. It means that you will learn ways of living, attitudes, criteria of decision making, priorities, and foci that may be beneficial or harmful. Ask yourself what that is in your case with each friend. And then ask what kind of friend you are for your friends?

Al Muhasibi who was the teacher of Junaid Baghdadi and Sirri Saqti said, “Your best friend is the one who: seeing him reminds you of Allah, speaking to him increases your knowledge, and his actions remind you of the hereafter.”

Narrated Anas bin Malik (R), A man asked Rasoolullah  about the Hour (Day of Judgment) saying, “When will the Hour be?” Rasoolullah  asked, “What have you prepared for it?” The man said, “Nothing, except that I love Allah and Messenger.” Rasoolullah  said, “You will be with those whom you love.” Anas (R) said, “We had never been so glad as we were on hearing that saying of Rasoolullah (i.e., “You will be with those whom you love.”) Therefore, I love Rasoolullah, Abu Bakr and `Umar, and I hope that I will be with them because of my love for them though my deeds are not like theirs. [Bukhari]

This is the humility of Anas bin Malik (R). But let us ask who our friends are, because on the Day of Judgement we will be with them. If they are not people we want to be with on that Day, the time to change is right now.

7.     No one walks alone: Every one of us is a reflection of his family, community, nation and humanity. We are never alone. Everything we choose to do or choose not to do, reflects our brand value and character. Character is the tree and fame is its shadow. But of the two only the tree is real. So, judge every action not only by whether it pleases you but by how it will reflect on your parents, family, and the Muslim nation, the Ummah of Rasoolullahﷺ. We are human because of our values alone. That is what distinguishes us from animals. So, focus on values. Compassion supercedes them all. Do to others better than what you would have them do to you. That is the Platinum Rule. That way you raise the bar and set a new standard that others can look up to. Life is transactional but we decide the value of each transaction. People listen with their eyes. They don’t care what we say until they see what we do. A picture is worth a thousand words. An action is worth a million.

وَمَن يُطِعِ ٱللَّهَ وَٱلرَّسُولَ فَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ مَعَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيْهِم مِّنَ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ وَٱلصِّدِّيقِينَ وَٱلشُّهَدَآءِ وَٱلصَّـٰلِحِينَ وَحَسُنَ أُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ رَفِيقًا

Nisa 4: 69    And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad), will be in the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed His Grace, of the Prophets, the Siddiqun, the martyrs, and the righteous. And how excellent these companions are!

8.     Remember that popularity doesn’t matter: So never buckle under the pressure of popularity. It doesn’t matter at all. Dr. Rene Favaloro invented the technique and performed the first bypass surgery in 1967. Michael Jackson began his solo career in 1971 (he made his debut in 1964). Who was more popular? Whose contribution has more value? Think contribution, not popularity. In our world today, if you stand up against injustice you will be very unpopular. But the world owes a debt of gratitude to those who do. Otherwise, oppressors would rule unchallenged. Peace as defined by oppressors has always been, ‘Absence of resistance to my oppression.’ But history is witness that it is thanks to those who disturbed that peace that we abolished slavery, have human dignity, and continue to fight for freedom. Remember that it is not whether you won or lost which matters. What matters is which side you fought on. Pick your side for you will be known by it. That is your signature. The only opinions that matter are of those people who are worthy of respect. You should be concerned about their opinions, seek their feedback, and pay attention to their advice. On the Day of Judgment, Allahﷻ will weigh our deeds, not count them. So, worth is measured in value, not in numbers. FB likes, Twitter RTs etc. are a distraction and deception. Get off social media, except if you need to use it to communicate. Nothing more. Social media is addictive, destructive, and paid for by our only irreplaceable resource, our life. Life is time. And how we used it is the first question on the Day of Judgment. Rasoolullahﷺ said that we would be resurrected in the state we died in. So, think about that when you are doing anything. Do you want to die like that? Intelligence is measured by how often we remember our death.

9.   Are you interested in development? Then seek feedback. Not just accept it, but actively seek feedback. Feedback is the mirror. You control what it reflects. Feedback is to look in the mirror of other’s eyes and experience. What you see there is how you appear to them. Do you want them to change how they see you? Then change yourself. It is really that simple. To be really empowered is to realize this and to remain on a path to lifelong learning. The secret of life is to realize that we are on a road to a destination at which we will arrive when the road ends. Until then the race is on. Winners and losers are only decided at the end. As a rule, those who try to help others to win are winners. Those who try to sabotage others, are losers. Choose wisely.

Abu Hurairah (R) reported that Rasoolullah said, “The believer is a mirror to his faithful brother. He protects him against loss and defends him behind his back.” Abu Hurairah (R) said, “The believer is a mirror to his brother. If he sees something wrong in him, he should correct it.” [al-Adab al-Mufrad]

10.    Last but not least, be kind. Especially to those who have no power to benefit you. They are the most important because the one who has nobody, has Allahﷻ and his voice reaches the Throne of Allahﷻ even if he doesn’t worship Him. Fear the dua (prayer) of the oppressed for there is no barrier between him and his Creator. Be kind in speech and action. To remove a rock from the road so that someone will not trip over it, is kindness. To take care of the commons is kindness. To clean up after yourself, whether it is your classroom, your desk, the table in the restaurant, the public toilet you use, or your old neighbor’s yard, are all acts of kindness. They influence the hearts of others and their opinion of you. Choose kindness because that is a path that has few who walk on it. It is a field in which you will have little competition, but I hope your being there will draw others to it and that you will leave a mark in the hearts of others.

Anas ibn Malik (R) reported that Rasoolullahﷺ said:

اتَّقُوا دَعْوَةَ الْمَظْلُومِ وَإِنْ كَانَ كَافِرًا فَإِنَّهُ لَيْسَ دُونَهَا حِجَابٌ

Beware of the dua of the oppressed, even if he is an unbeliever, for there is nothing to veil it. [Musnad Aḥmad]

Mu’adh ibn Jabal (R) reported [Bukhari] that Rasoolullahﷺ said:

وَاتَّقِ دَعْوَةَ الْمَظْلُومِ فَإِنَّهُ لَيْسَ بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَ اللَّهِ حِجَابٌ

Beware of the dua of the oppressed, for there is no veil between it and Allah.

Ibn Umar (R) reported that Rasoolullahﷺ said:

اتَّقُوا دَعَوَاتِ الْمَظْلُومِ فَإِنَّهَا تَصْعَدُ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ كَأَنَّهَا شَرَارٌ

Beware of the dua of the oppressed, for it ascends to Allah as if it were a flare. [Mustadrak]

Where there is a meeting, there will always be a parting. Ensure that the parting is such that it leaves the person with the desire to meet again. At the very least, ensure that the parting doesn’t shut the door. Never burn the bridge because often we need it to cross the river again. Always ask yourself, “What do I want to be remembered for?”

I wish you every great dream in life and the courage to make it come true.