It’s my Life

We live in a paradoxical world. We are knowledgeable about the earth but are burning it up at a pace which is out of control. We are knowledgeable about health but disease, especially mental illness is in rampant proportions. We collectively have enormous wealth, but its distribution ensures that vast populations are deprived, even starving, while a few live in luxury. We have moved from physical conquest of countries to proxy wars which can provide never-ending ROI for weapons manufacturers. It is not a war to conquer land but to achieve macroeconomic goals while making profit for both sides. The devastation of cities and nations is an opportunity for contracts to rebuild which means more profit. The deaths of civilians is collateral damage mourned only by their families. The fastest spreading religion in our world is Materialism and its presiding deity is money. It runs on the illusion of fiat currency, its temples are banks, and its high priests are those who manipulate interest rates to enrich and impoverish people and nations at will. In our world, sin is good, greed is virtue, cruelty is nobility, anything that makes money for those in control is good, lying is the biggest talent, and truth is evil. We are living in a stupor in a 3-D surround sound theatre, wearing virtual reality glasses and anyone who tries to wake us up to the reality of our lives, is brutally silenced, so that it becomes a salutary warning for others. We have assets. What we have lost is our moral compass. We are like a very powerful car speeding downhill without brakes. Our speed is exhilarating, but the end is obvious and inevitable. The rise and fall of civilizations is not based on how much wealth they have but on how it is used. That depends on their values. Values decide how assets are used. That is destiny and it is in our hands.

The biggest casualty of this state of affairs in our brave new world is the almost total collapse of credibility. Today we trust nobody, believe nobody and suspect everyone. Politicians, religious leaders, business heads, teachers, media, doctors, attorneys, parents, spouses, children, and elders; we don’t believe any of them. We are constantly looking for second opinions in the name of trying to be accurate. The truth is that we do it because we don’t believe anyone. Our society feeds us a constant diet of bad news, usually exaggerated. We never hear or think about the enormous good that there is in our world today. The result of this way of life is stress, anxiety, and depression. You can’t live in a constant state of fear. And its effect shows.

There is a solution to all this and that is to rebuild our faith. To return to the standard that was taught and exemplified by Rasoolullahﷺ. A standard of life that was birthed in a society very similar to ours with similar materialistic motivations. He taught us how to deal with it in practice. His time and life were the pilot project, proof of concept that Islam works. His way, the Sunnah proves that Islam is not merely a theory, philosophy, or concept, but like Judo or Aikido, Islam is a practice. Like all practices, it must be practiced if you want to benefit from it. Merely knowing about it or having academic discussions is of no use. Allahﷻ drew our attention to it and called Rasoolullahﷺ and his way, the best choice for anyone who looks forward to meeting Allahﷻ and the Day of Judgment. If we follow him we will benefit.

So, do values matter? Think of values as a life jacket. The time you need to hold onto it and wear it openly is when you’re in the flood. When you’re on dry land it doesn’t matter. But when you’re caught in a flood, in danger of drowning, that’s when you need those values most. We need to hold onto our values especially when things are difficult. Sometimes people ask, “Why should I do it when nobody else is doing it?” I say, “I should do it especially when nobody is doing it because if I don’t, there’ll be nobody else doing it.” As they say, “If not me, then who?” In the end, it’s not about them. It’s about me. It is my life and only I will answer for my actions. Allahﷻ said:

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَآئِقَةُ ٱلْمَوْتِ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَـٰمَةِ فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ ٱلنَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ ٱلْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ وَمَا ٱلْحَيَوٰةُ ٱلدُّنْيَآ إِلَّا مَتَـٰعُ ٱلْغُرُورِ

A’al Imraan 3: 185    Every soul will taste death. And you will only receive your full reward on the Day of Judgment. Whoever is spared from the Fire and is admitted into Jannah will ˹indeed˺ triumph, whereas the life of this world is no more than the delusion of enjoyment.

In this Ayat-ul-Kareema Allahﷻ mentioned four things. That this life is finite, and we will all die. Whatever material we have will be left behind but how we got it and what we did with it will go with us. That the final reckoning will be on the Day of Judgement. No matter who thinks that they got away with murder and worse, will pay the price in full. Likewise, for those who seem to lose out for being truthful in this life. They will receive their reward in full that day. Finally, the criterion of permanent success or failure – only the one who is saved from punishment and gets admittance to Jannah will have succeeded. Beware, this life is a deception.

Following this means that we must do two things: Always keep our focus on the goal, Jannah and know that ‘how’ matters more than ‘what’. How we acquire something matters more than what it is. We must think about all our speech and actions in terms of their effect in this life and the Aakhira. It is possible to benefit by lying but is it a benefit when the result is punishment in the Hereafter? It is possible to rule by oppressing others. But is it worth paying for it on the Day of Judgement when those you oppressed will ask Allahﷻ for justice? A small house acquired without an interest paying loan or mortgage is better than living in a mansion that really belongs to the bank but which you call your own. So, our speech and actions must never violate Allahﷻ’s laws or the rights of people. We must factor Allahﷻ into our equation because He is in it anyway. He cares, He sees, He hears, He knows. Nothing is hidden from Him in the heavens and earth. To Him is our return.

This helps us not to become distracted and discouraged when it looks like honesty, integrity, compassion, kindness, courage to speak the truth and so on, are all not only not ‘practical’ but painful and attract punishment in our world today. And we see that those who do the opposite of all these become wealthy and powerful. This a severe test because in a materialistic world, we have been conditioned to define success in terms of ‘what’ and not ‘how’. We are told to measure human worth in dollars and not character. We are conditioned to look up to those who have the most toys and the most ostentatious lifestyles as role models, driving us to incur Allahﷻ’s anger.

Second, it helps us to remember that everything we have will be left behind when we leave this world. Nothing goes with us, even if it is put into our graves. It helps us to remember that nobody’s life is free from trials. Everyone without exception will be tested. It is impossible for anyone to live without stress and worry, especially in today’s world. It is only the cause of stress and the nature of the difficulty that changes. For us Muslims, who believe in the Hereafter, that is the biggest worry, the greatest concern, the biggest fear, that there is a Day of Judgement and the awareness that it can come at any time. The deception of Shaytaan is that he tells us that the way to escape what you fear is to ignore it. Allahﷻ tells us the truth which is that if you want to escape what you fear, prepare for it. Allahﷻ helps anyone who prepares and seeks His help. I know that we are taught to have life goals. But do we have a goal for our soul? In our materialistic world, we are concerned about our body’s weight, shape, BMI, fashion, and all the rest. But are we concerned about the state of our soul? Or the state of our Qalb, which Allahﷻ told us is the only thing which will matter when we meet Him.   

يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ – إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى ٱللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

Shu’ara 26: 88-89    the Day when neither wealth nor children will be of any benefit. Only those who come before Allah with a pure heart ˹will be saved˺.

I ask myself if I am satisfied with the state of my Qalb? And if not, then what am I doing to at least try to have a pure heart. A heart pure and free from Shirk, hatred, greed, envy, jealousy, stinginess, cruelty, and the host of illnesses of the heart that we are victims of. Or am I going to continue to be misled by my environment and its influencers who try to convince me that all these evils are good and must become my lifegoals. The name of the cancer is Materialism. To believe that the winner is the one who died with most toys. Our role models are the Anbiya who Allahﷻ ordered us to obey.

وَمَآ أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا لِيُطَاعَ بِإِذْنِ ٱللَّهِ

Nisa 4: 64    We only sent messengers to be obeyed by Allah’s Will.

About Rasoolullahﷺ and obeying him, there are numerous Ayaat. One is:

وَمَآ ءَاتَىٰكُمُ ٱلرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَىٰكُمْ عَنْهُ فَٱنتَهُوا۟ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ شَدِيدُ ٱلْعِقَابِ

Hashr 59: 7    Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it. And whatever he forbids you from, leave it. And fear Allah. Surely Allah is severe in punishment.

Allahﷻ commands us to obey Rasoolullahﷺ in everything, without exception. To do or stay away from whatever he tells us to do, unquestioningly. Not because we follow blindly but because we follow with the knowledge that he commands only what Allahﷻ commanded him and so when we obey him, we are really obeying Allahﷻ. Allahﷻ confirmed.

مَّن يُطِعِ ٱلرَّسُولَ فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ ٱللَّهَ وَمَن تَوَلَّىٰ فَمَآ أَرْسَلْنَـٰكَ عَلَيْهِمْ حَفِيظًا

Nisa 4: 80    Whoever obeys the Messenger has truly obeyed Allah. But whoever turns away, then ˹know that˺ We have not sent you as a keeper over them.

The Anbiya were usually the only ones among their people who were on the values of truth and fidelity. They had no support. They stood out. They didn’t blend in. They were not hypocritical or politically correct. They knew the consequences of their actions. They didn’t do them because they were mistaken. They did them out of a deep-seated conviction about what is right and what is wrong. They didn’t compromise the truth because they knew that truth is an absolute value. It doesn’t come in grades. You can’t be partially or slightly truthful. Just as you can’t be slightly pregnant. You either are or you are not. There are no grey areas about truth. The Anbiya knew this in the core of their beings, and they lived by that, and they paid the price and harvested the rewards in this life, and they will have the highest honor in the Aakhira.

We must weigh everything in the true scale of the Aakhira and not get deceived by the glitter of Dunya. When someone sells something with permanent value to buy something with temporary value, you don’t call that smart. You call that stupid. So, what should we call our actions? If you gain the whole world but lose Allahﷻ, what have you gained? And if you lose the whole world and gain Allahﷻ, what have you lost? That is the equation.

I remind myself and you that it is always about me, about you, about the individual man and woman. All change begins with the individual. Nobody can force us to change. And nobody can stop us from changing if we decide to change. That is why we are solely responsible for ourselves. We are still in the month of Hajj. When Ibrahim (AS) and his family decided to obey Allahﷻ it was not easy. How easy is it to leave your wife and infant baby in a desert valley and leave, not knowing when or if you will ever see them again? How easy is it to see your husband leaving you and walking away without a backward glance? How easy was it to have a father you were seeing for the first time, asking you what you thought about the idea of being sacrificed for the sake of Allahﷻ? Yet, they all submitted. They submitted because they knew who was asking. They had a connection with Him. They knew Him and had the best expectation from Him. Needless to say, Allahﷻ never lets you down. He immortalized their actions and made them the Manasik (rituals) of the highest form of worship, Hajj. The Hajj is the commemorative story of Ibrahim (AS) and his family. Allahﷻ made them and their story immortal. Choose wisely because our choices are permanent.