Purify Within To Succeed Without

 “Verily, the believers have succeeded.”

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Beyond merely “living” (as in, existing), man ultimately wants to succeed in life – however the term ‘success’ is defined. The tricky part is, although we all have a good sense of what success looks like on the outside, we often find ourselves spending our entire lives reaching out for it; and sometimes, sadly, we do not feel we ever reach it.

I am not  referring to worldly success such as fame and riches. I’m talking contentment, joy, satisfaction, and meaning… success that lasts in the long term.

But there is a way to reach it all. God does not only tell us we can in the Quran, he says we already have – emphasizing the certainty that, if particular measures are taken with sincerity, He will not deny us this sweetest victory over ourselves.

The truth is, there is no way to achieve real outwardly success- the permanent, lasting one – without gaining inner success. 

You’ll have to purify within to succeed without. There’s no shortcut around it, no matter what all those false-promising ‘10 quick things you can do to be a happy and successful person‘ articles claim. Genuine success is not about quick fixes – it’s about real, honest work.

Let’s explore.

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  • Once upon a time in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammed (صلى الله عليه و سلم) informed his people,

“Ten ayat have just been revealed upon me; whoever establishes them will enter Paradise.” Then he recited the first ten verses of Surat Al-Mu’minoon.

  • A small while later, people came to the Prophet’s wife, Aisha, رضي الله عنها , and inquired as to the character of the Prophet.

She responded that his manners were those of the Quran. Then she recited the first ten verses of Surat Al-Mu’minoon.

Time and time again, when I ask a knowledgeable person for which verses of the Quran to immediately focus on, memorize, or “start off” firmly establishing in my life, I am referred to the first ten verses of surat al-Mu’minoon. I figure writing a blog post about it will instill it in my heart, so here I am writing this and there you are reading it!

This chapter begins and ends with the promise of success:

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Some things to quickly note:

-When the word “قد ” appears before a verb, it implies something that has occurred and is continuing to occur. (For example, قد قامت الصلاة) So, think of it like this… you, a believer, will succeed because God has seen you already do so. Hooray!

But it’s not quite as simple as that. It’s not just saying the shahada… it’s more along the lines of living it. 

Another interesting Arabic linguistic observation: the word  for ‘succeeded’ that is used is ” أفلح ” – which derives from the root word ”  فلاح ” (farmer). Allow me to go into some more depth in this for a moment, and although it’ll appear to be tangent to this topic, it actually is extremely relevant:

Unlike our regular 9-hour daily paid jobs, in which we get paid every month or so, farmers don’t see the fruits of their efforts for almost an entire year. Day after day after day they work hard, whatever their moods may be; and they know if they slack off for just one week, there may be consequences for the entire year’s resulting crop.

Painting by Rae Chichilnitsky

Painting by Rae Chichilnitsky

To bring it back to the topic of success, which can be likened to the farmer’s crop – success is not a quick to-do action off a checklist. In this world where everything has become fast-paced and relentless, we’ve become impatient and want to speed even meaningfulness up. You cannot do that. Further, you cannot slack off and expect success to come your way anyways… (you must refuse to be what I call a Type C person!)

The following verses give us sort of a checklist of qualities, all connected to one another, of a mature believer – where do you stand? Judge yourself honestly, you will not get anywhere if you continue deceiving yourself.

In a nutshell, these are the main qualities a believer should strive to have – take out your checklists! 🙂

Khushoo‘ (خشوع) in prayer.

Are you humble in prayer and feel an awe and fear of God so deep it almost feels like it’s physically in your bones? Are you submissive with concentration & devotion without distracting yourself with petty thoughts? That’s khushoo’. It’s a lot tougher to work on internal issues than the external appearance of praying correctly. You must purify within to succeed without.

It’s comforting for so many of us (myself never excluded) to know we pray 5 times a day. We’re making time for our Lord and standing before Him. But are we really whole-heartedly, mind and soulfully, there? I do believe that’s a question that needs a lifetime of devotion to properly answer.

We spoke a little about farmers and the intense amount of work they must have. They cannot get all this work done efficiently if they don’t have a strict schedule to abide by. Why,

“Did you ever consider how ridiculous it would be to try to cram on a farm – to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring in the harvest? The farm is a natural system. The price must be paid and the process followed. You always reap what you sow; there is not shortcut.” [1]

Farmers have strict schedules to follow – and our ‘strict’ schedule (though it is a pleasant sort of strictness) is the five daily prayers, minimum.

There is much more than can be said about prayer, but I’m not the one that should keep talking about it. I need to be doing it with more soul & heart before preaching to the choir… so let’s move on and look at the next characteristics of the successful believer:

hunh

Turn away from ill speech (لغو).

” لغو ” has many possible interpretations, but many scholars agree it is idleness; whether this is in the form of actually lying, backbiting, cursing and insulting, falsehoods, vanity… basically, useless conversation that consumes one’s time.

God doesn’t just tell us to avoid “laghw”, but He instructs us to walk past it in a dignified fashion should we encounter it. Don’t allow the peer pressure of others to make you feel like you have to suck it up with them and waste your time listening to useless talk. Your time is worth more than that.

Which brings us back to the importance of respecting time… respecting schedules… ultimately respecting prayer.

Those who do zakaat.

This is a Meccan surah. When this verse was revealed, it was before financial zakat became an obligation. Further, if the verse was referring explicitly to monetary charity, it might have instructed us to give zakat, as opposed to do it. So what is zakat?

First, let’s give a metaphor. Imagine your dishes at home. You wash them every day. Try eating the usual amount of food for one day, just one day – and ignore the dishes. What horribleness will you awaken to! And how much harder is it to get rid of the filth! Well, your heart needs a polish not just now and then; the Ramadan once a year is not sufficient. Boy, girl, you’ve got a LOT of stains on that heart, and until you realize your own flaws, no one else can get rid of them!

Zakaah means purification. To be a successful believer, you must constantly, and consistently, purify yourself. Check your ego, ask forgiveness of sins you know and don’t know of, beg God to let you see through your own delusions… for we ARE delusional in terms of who we think ourselves to be, particularly in front of Allah.

For example, I think there’s something seriously wrong with feeling satisfied after a prayer – rather than feeling anxious if it had been accepted. We delude ourselves that we’re already all righteous and of course God is going to accept it. But where is our feeling of khushoo’?

Purify yourself. It sounds so simple and it requires no outside sources… except, of course, your willingness to admit you badly need it.

Guarding one’s chastity.

Shamelessness between men and women is an already very obvious problem within many societies. I am not going to go to great depths on this issue, but needless to say, I quite agree with Nouman Ali Khan when he said (and I paraphrase):

It goes to show just how much harder we have to work to make our marriages beautiful, and romantic…

that’s part of our duty as believers! Make your marriages beautiful!

Guarding trusts and promises.

Do you make promises you intend to fulfill? Me, too. Do you make promises you guard with all your might to see fulfilled?

Hmm. What’s up with the typical “yes inshaAllah, I’ll try be there” that somehow is now sadly assumed between Muslims as “oh, she’s not coming”?

I believe promises should be guarded in the most excellent manner possible… which goes to say that even a promise on something so trivial, such as attending an event on Facebook, should be guarded! If one is not sure whether he/she will make it or not, it’s OK; put yourself as maybe attending; but by putting an “Attending”, you are making a false promise to the organizers of the event.

Am I making a big fuss of this? Maybe. But I honestly believe that if the smallest details of our lives are taken care of, the humongous boulders will take care of themselves.

Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (RA) says that Rasulullah (SAW) said: “Four traits whoever possesses them is a hypocrite and whoever possesses some of them has an element of hypocrisy until he leaves it: the one who when he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks his promise, when he disputes he transgresses and when he makes an agreement he violates it.” (Muslim and Bukhari)

Based on those criteria… while I won’t say our Ummah is full of hypocrites, but I boldly say that there is a lot of hypocrisy that goes on.

And it’ll always come back to prayer. If we can’t bring it in ourselves to fulfill promises to other folks, how can we honor our promise to their Creator? Salaat is a promise between you and God; guard such a promise and everything else will fall into place.

And now… we are almost at the end of these 10 verses…

8 to 10

Did I just say it all ends in prayer? The beginning and ending of the first 10 ayat of surat al-Mu’minoon concerns prayer.

May we all be of those who succeed in this world & the next… 

May we all be of those who purify ourselves & enlighten the way for others to do the same…

And may we all be of those who are the inheritors of Jannatul-Firdaous.

Ameen!

Ameen!

And Allah knows Best.

 

A.S.

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Sources:

Imam Zia’s tafseer of first 10 verses of surat Al-Mu’minoon

Nouman Ali Khan: Characteristics of the Believers Khutba

[1] 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, p.22 (Stephen Covey)

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Hope in Allah Precludes Failure

Hope in Allah Precludes Failure

“Verily, hope encourages and steers one towards patience; hope arises from having a good opinion of Allah; hope in Allah precludes the possibility of failure. But why should we be so confident that hope in Allah precludes the possibility of failure? If we were to study the characteristics of generous people, we would find that they take special care of those who think well enough of them to turn to for help. They will also tend to eschew those who think ill of them. What is important here is that they refrain from hurting the hopes of those who single them out for help. Then what will be the case regarding the Most Generous One, Whose kingdom is not decreased in the least when He gives even more than what the hopeful ones expected from Him in the first place?”

-[Excerpt from the book: ‘Don’t Be Sad’ , p.330]

You Pray

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You smell the invisible scents

In the softly soothing wind

You feel more than you see

The outside from within.

Outside we see, we hear, we touch

But inside is where lies belief

Beware of taking what’s not yours

And become a sudden thief.

You’re blessed with love

You’re blessed with time

You’re blessed to be able to read

Or listen to this rhyme.

Don’t you think a little gratitude

Is in need here?

Why do I pray?

Let me break it down here.

Have you ever wished (oh, you wished!)

That some One out there

Could read the depths of your heart,

See through you with tender care?

Some One to share that small seed

Of sudden joy your chest needs

Some One to realize your strengths

Pull you to Love at great lengths.

Some One to turn to in tears

Who can smile at your fears

Because He is the One

That can make them all run…

Some One to really live for

Who can guide you to the Door

Who can help vanish your greed

By feeding your soul’s spiritual need…

And so… you found Him

When He’d never even lost you

If I knew this was my last moment,

Think: What would I do?

I’d pray.

Yes, you’d pray,

Five times a day

To remind yourself

You don’t know you

Closer than your jugular vein

He can see you through

You pray for strength, you pray for bliss

You pray for all your ego’s amiss

Your prayer does not benefit Him

Rather it benefits you

You’re not making Him richer

Rather you’re paying what is due.

Prayer: yes, we get it, it’s cool

But without the right intention, the one praying is a fool

It was first the journey of one man to the Divine

He was brought to His Lord on the seventh, highest sky…

Peace & blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad.

Israa el-Miraj is this journey’s name

Compared to all other commandments, it was not the same

Rather than the message passing first through Gibreel

God raised the Prophet to Him—for real.

Initial command was to pray fifty times a day

But it was clear this was possible in no way

God the Most Merciful cut it down to five

But it shows, from this, the purpose of our life.

Think: Why was the devil disgraced?

Cuz he refused to obediently prostrate

And what about us who ignore the pillar of prayer?

Do we really distinguish ourselves from the devil’s state?

Think: what do you pray for,

If not to free your trapped soul?

Think: Why do you live

If it is not, in thanks, to give?

After all, we take, we consume

We mercilessly oppress our souls

Pretending to be masters of our bodies and minds

Forgetting Allah, God, the All-Merciful.

Prayer, salah, should not

Revolve around our lives

We should revolve ourselves

Around what went from fifty to five.

Think about all He gives you

And think about what you do

Do you ever sincerely, genuinely say thanks

Or of your blessings you no longer keep track?

Think: You sleep for hours on end

Temporarily oblivious of existence, my friend

But your heart keeps beating, you keep up the breathing

You go to new places in your effortless dreams

Your mind transitions to new worlds with incredible ease.

Prayer is not big for no big deal

Prayer is an opportunity to stop and just feel

The world for what it is and get closer to Allah

And if you’re ever lucky, you’ll make your own Israa’ el-miraj…

For every purpose, for every event

For everything in your life relevant

A prayer is in call for

It is the key to the Door

Of His pleasure in this world and the next

Regardless of your current context

He can hear you, He can see you

He can read you like a book

See parts of you you never looked

How wonderful it is

That you found Him

At last you found Him

When He’d never even lost you

Your heart overflows with gratitude

And so what do you do?

You pray.

Yes, you pray,

Five times a day

To remind yourself

You don’t know you

Closer than your jugular vein

He can see you through

You pray for strength, you pray for bliss

You pray for all your ego’s amiss

Your prayer does not benefit Him

Rather it benefits you

You’re not making Him richer

Rather you’re paying what is due.

By: A.S.

March.30, 2012