Trap of minimalist thinking

“Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it.” Sir Henry Royce of Rolls Royce.

Among the RR legends is one when Charles Rolls met Henry Royce in his workshop where he had designed a car. Charles Rolls looked at the car and asked Henry Royce, “Can you start the engine please?” Royce replied, “The engine is running.” Hard to beat someone with that baseline, right?

Let me remind myself and you that Fundamental Laws don’t change, ever. The Law of Gravity or Thermodynamics, or Aerodynamics, or any other Fundamental Law will not change, irrespective of who is affected by it or whether or not they like it. Success is a Fundamental Law. The Law of Success is: Passion generates power. Power builds strength. Strength moves mountains. Without passion there can be no success. And remember, passion must be demonstrated in dedicated application to the cause without which strength will not build. Let me illustrate with an example. Take the case of someone who claims to want to memorize the Qur’an, which includes every one of us here. Versus someone who dedicates two years of his life to spend with a teacher memorizing every day. What do we see when we study the life of Rasoolullah and his Sahaba (R)? Interest or passion? I ask you and myself, ‘What are we passionate about?’ Because that will determine the trajectory of our earthly and eternal lives. As Allah said:

وَأَن لَّيْسَ لِلْإِنسَـٰنِ إِلَّا مَا سَعَىٰ

Najm 53: 39   And that man can have nothing but what he does (good or bad).

So, what are we working for? I don’t mean as a hobby. We are talking about passion, remember? Passion means full-time dedication to the cause. When Rasoolullah sent Mus’ab bin Omair (R) to Madina to preach Islam, what did he do in Madina? He preached Islam. Did he start a business or seek employment with someone? He didn’t because he was already employed. By Allah. He recognized that his sustenance was the responsibility of his employer, who in this case was Rabbul A’alameen. What was the result? Starting with Asad bin Zurara (R), Usaid bin Hudair (R), Sa’ad bin Ubadah (R), and Sa’ad bin Mu’ad (R), most of the Ansar accepted Islam at his hands. And about 4 years after he went to Madina he became the Standard Bearer of Rasoolullah in the Battle of Uhud and he was martyred. Was he successful? Was he passionate? What was he passionate about? What are we passionate about? What were his results? What are likely to be our results? I remind myself that passionate people don’t look for shortcuts. They don’t indulge in minimalist thinking. They do their best and then do more. That is why I began with Sir Henry Royce’s quote. That is how more than a century later, 60% of Rolls Royce cars ever built are still on the road. Allah said:

وَمِنَ ٱلنَّاسِ مَن يَتَّخِذُ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ أَندَادًا يُحِبُّونَهُمْ كَحُبِّ ٱللَّهِ وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ أَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِّلَّهِ وَلَوْ يَرَى ٱلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوٓا۟ إِذْ يَرَوْنَ ٱلْعَذَابَ أَنَّ ٱلْقُوَّةَ لِلَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَأَنَّ ٱللَّهَ شَدِيدُ ٱلْعَذَابِ

Baqara 2: 165   And of mankind are some who take (for worship) others besides Allah as rivals (to Allah). They love them as they love Allah. But those who believe, love Allah more (than anything else). If only, those who do wrong could see, when they will see the torment, that all power belongs to Allah and that Allah is Severe in punishment.

Allah defined Muslims as those who love Him intensely, more than anything else. Does this definition apply to us? What is the sign of that? What is the sign of love for anyone? One of the first and most visible signs is the desire to spend every waking moment with the beloved. When the lover needs to go away from the beloved for an unavoidable reason, he/she seeks to return to their company as soon as possible. Rasoolullah used to call out to Bilal bin Rabah (R) and say, “Areyhna Ya Bilal.” Which means, ‘give me relief, relaxation, pleasure, peace, tranquility’. How? By calling Adhaan. For Rasoolullah Salah was rest, relief, resuscitation, revival, resurgence of spirit. For us, what is Salah? Duty, burden to be shed as soon as possible. In Urdu we say, ‘Namaz say Farigh ho gaye.’ Faraghat mil gayi. Bojh halka ho gaya. Kya yeh Mohabbat ki nishani hai? Salah for us is prayed, not when Allah calls us at the beginning of its time, but when we feel like praying at our convenience. Does this demonstrate love and passion? Or tiredness and boredom? Do we try to do more or the bare minimum? Do we look for ways to excel or to get by with escaping punishment? Do we have Taqwa or are we Fatwa shoppers? Remember, Allah will not count. He will weigh. And weight depends on the intention of the deed.

Love of Allah was the passion of Rasoolullah and is the passion of all those who call themselves his Ummah. I ask Allah to include us among them. Love of Allah and His Messenger is a pillar of Islam. It is not discretionary but obligatory. It is a boundary condition. Not a frill.

قُلْ إِن كَانَ ءَابَآؤُكُمْ وَأَبْنَآؤُكُمْ وَإِخْوَٰنُكُمْ وَأَزْوَٰجُكُمْ وَعَشِيرَتُكُمْ وَأَمْوَٰلٌ ٱقْتَرَفْتُمُوهَا وَتِجَـٰرَةٌ تَخْشَوْنَ كَسَادَهَا وَمَسَـٰكِنُ تَرْضَوْنَهَآ أَحَبَّ إِلَيْكُم مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِۦ وَجِهَادٍ فِى سَبِيلِهِۦ فَتَرَبَّصُوا۟ حَتَّىٰ يَأْتِىَ ٱللَّهُ بِأَمْرِهِۦ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِى ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلْفَـٰسِقِينَ

Tawba 9:24   Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger, and striving hard and fighting in His Cause, then wait until Allah brings about His Decision (torment). And Allah guides not the people who are Al-Fasiqun (the rebellious, disobedient to Allah).

Allah listed the things that we normally love. All of them and love for them is Halal and permissible. Some even earn rewards with Allah. But if one gives precedence to them over his love for Allah, His Messenger and striving in the path of Allah, then Allah rejects such a person and promises His punishment. Love for Allah and His Messenger is obligatory and must be demonstrated, not only claimed.

The sign of love is to do more. Not less. To claim to love someone but to do only the minimum to maintain the relationship, is hypocrisy. As someone said, ‘Give Allah the best. Not what’s left.’ While all charity is meritorious, it is only when someone spends what he/she truly loves that it becomes evidence of sincerity. Remember that with Allah, simply claiming is not enough. Love must be demonstrated. Allah tested Ibrahim (AS) by first ordering him to leave his wife and son in a barren valley in service to Allah. Then to slaughter his son as a sacrifice to Allah. When we go for Hajj, an Ibaadah which is a sign of love, we leave all our comforts, comfortable clothes, homes, food, and company of our spouses, and we wear the Ihram, sleep on the floor, eat whatever we can get, we control anger, are polite to strangers, stay up all night and stand in Arafa all day in the sun, to demonstrate our love for Allah. Then what about our usual tendency to do the minimum for Allah, yet ask Him for the maximum. Hajj is to learn and apply those lessons to the rest of our lives. Think, what if we did?

Anas bin Malik (R) narrates that Abu Talha Al-Ansari (R) owned the most date orchards among all the Ansar in Madina. Among them his most prized orchard was called Berha, which was situated in front of Al-Masjid An-Nabawi. Rasoolullah would sometimes go to this orchard and drink from a well of cool, pure water that was in it. Anas bin Malik (R) narrates that when the following Ayah was revealed:

لَن تَنَالُوا۟ ٱلْبِرَّ حَتَّىٰ تُنفِقُوا۟ مِمَّا تُحِبُّونَ وَمَا تُنفِقُوا۟ مِن شَىْءٍ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بِهِۦ عَلِيمٌ

A’al Imraan 3: 92   By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety), unless you spend (in Allah’s Cause) of that which you love; and whatever of good you spend, Allah knows it well.

Abu Talha Al-Ansari (R) went to Rasoolullah and said, “Ya Rasoolullah, from my property, my most beloved possession is the Berha orchard. I offer that as charity in the way of Allah. Please accept it and spend it wherever you wish.” Rasoolullah replied, “Well done, this sacrifice will be everlasting. I consider it best if you distribute this amongst your close relatives.” And so, Abu Talha Al-Ansari (R) distributed the orchard among his relatives and the sons of his uncle. (Bukhari)

The final story I want to end with is so amazing that I can only marvel at the power of love of Allah. The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, banned the manufacture, transportation, and sale of intoxicating liquors, and began a period in American history called the Prohibition. Prohibition officially went into effect on January 17, 1920, with the passage of the Volstead Act. This opened a period of bootlegging, and consequently millions of dollars ($1 in 1920 was worth $15 in 2020) in enforcement. Hundreds of thousands of people were imprisoned and crime boomed. Eventually the US Government gave up and the attempt to ban one of the biggest killers and destroyers of society, failed. In early 1933, Congress adopted a resolution proposing a 21st Amendment to the Constitution that would repeal the 18th. The 21st Amendment was ratified on December 5, 1933, ending Prohibition. That day must be remembered with grief. Why?

Just to put things in perspective, according to the World Health Organization, the number of deaths from COVID worldwide from November 2019 to April 2022 is 6,142,579. Over that same period alcohol killed an estimated 7,216,438 people. We are not counting the number severely injured and disabled, families and lives ruined, and billions spent in hospitals and rehab because someone had a great time at a party.

Let’s see how much Rasoolullah spent, how many people had to be arrested and imprisoned to implement prohibition in Madina and wherever Islam ruled. Anas bin Malik (R) relates that he was pouring wine made from dates to Abu Talha Al-Ansari (R), Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah (R) and Ubayy bin Ka’ab (R), when someone arrived and informed them that alcohol had been declared forbidden. Abu Talha Al-Ansari (R) poured out the alcohol in his cup and ordered, “O Anas! Break these pots!” Anas bin Malik (R) said that he hit the bottom of the pots with a stone and smashed them all. (Bukhari). This happened all over Madina, and people say that wine flowed in the drains. When Rasoolullah heard about people breaking pots and jars, he summoned them and asked them why they were breaking the jars. They replied, ‘Ya Rasoolullah we don’t want to be reminded of a time when we used to disobey Allah.’

That is why Sayyida Ayesha Siddiqua (RA) said, ‘If the Ayaat about Tawheed and the Glory of Allah had not been revealed before the prohibition of alcohol, it would have been very difficult for people to leave intoxicants.’

A society which was addicted to alcohol, an addiction that has no permanent cure, left their addiction instantaneously because they loved Allah who prohibited it more than they loved consuming alcohol. They didn’t ask, ‘Is it Haraam or is it Makrooh? What quantity is Haraam?’ As soon as the Ayah was revealed, they gave it up. They didn’t need detox clinics and sanitaria. Rasoolullah didn’t need police and prisons, courts, and fines. Just the Ayah was enough because they loved Allah. Allah said:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ إِنَّمَا ٱلْخَمْرُ وَٱلْمَيْسِرُ وَٱلْأَنصَابُ وَٱلْأَزْلَـٰمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنِ فَٱجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

Ma’aida 5: 90   O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, Al-Ansab, and Al-Azlam (fortune telling) are an abomination of Shaytaan’s handiwork. Avoid that (abomination) so that you may be successful.

Do we want to be successful? Seriously, ask yourself this question. Allah told us and His Messenger demonstrated for us, what it takes to be successful in this life and the next. It is to obey Allah and to do it in the way of His Messenger. Anyone who strives to do that to the best of his ability, not lazily as a burden, but with love of Allah and Rasoolullah, will be successful. It really is as simple as that. Ask yourself in everything, ‘Is this the best? Can I do more?’ If so, do it. If not, at least you tried. Remember that if you are using Fiqh to do less, then your Mufti is Shaytaan. Fiqh must lead us to Allah. Not away from him. Trying to hide behind rulings to escape obeying Allah and to indulge our Nafs is a fatal spiritual disease. We must always strive to do our best and seek Allah’s forgiveness for mistakes. Let us ask, ‘Do I love Allah?’ And remember that Allah knows because He knows what’s in our hearts.