New York - It is my strong belief that the Quran contains the best personal-development technology in existence. I came to Islam after having explored several other spiritual traditions and endless self-improvement courses and books. I can attest to the enormous power of the Quran’s unique teachings to transform our lives for the better. Growth and transformation, however, require strong focus, discipline and sustained effort. If we lack discipline and determination, we can begin by making a sincere intention to increase them and pray with earnestness for God’s help.
New York – It is my strong belief that the Quran contains the best personal-development technology in existence. I came to Islam after having explored several other spiritual traditions and endless self-improvement courses and books. I can attest to the enormous power of the Quran’s unique teachings to transform our lives for the better. Growth and transformation, however, require strong focus, discipline and sustained effort. If we lack discipline and determination, we can begin by making a sincere intention to increase them and pray with earnestness for God’s help.
In Islam, we have all the tools we need to succeed and we must put them to use.
The following five lessons from the Quran can transform our lives in profound ways:
Every Little Thing Matters
Human beings have the tendency to think that the small actions we do on a daily basis are irrelevant and that only big decisions have the power to affect the course of our lives. This view is mistaken. Small actions are our lives and they create our future because life builds on a moment-by-moment basis.
The Quran tells us that “Anyone who does an atom’s weight of good will see it, And anyone who does an atom’s weight of harm will see it” (99:7-8). This is very powerful because at any given moment, what we do is a small step, and therefore, easy to control.
In The Quran and the Life of Excellence, Dr. Sultan Abdulhameed explains that “many times people are overwhelmed thinking that something big has to happen to change their life around. These ayas remind us of the power of taking small steps. Make a list of the many things you can do today. Decide on one item that is good for you and that you know you can do. Then do it. However weak or off-track a person may be, he or she is usually strong enough to take one step in the right direction. The next day will offer this opportunity again. Everything we say or do makes a difference, and it accumulates. The opportunity to make a better future is in the small steps we take hour by hour and day by day.”
The Value of Time
Our time is truly our only resource in life and it is the most precious asset that we have. Imam al-Ghazali gives excellent advice on how to make the best use of it:
You should structure your time, arrange your regular devotions and assign to each function a set period of time during which it is given first priority but which it does not overstep. For if you abandon yourself to neglect and purposelessness, as cattle do, and just do anything that may occur to you at any time it happens to occur to you, most of your time will be wasted. Your time is your life, and your life is your capital; it is the basis of your transactions with God, and the means to attain to everlasting felicity, in the proximity of God the Exalted. Each of your breaths is a priceless jewel, and when it passes away it never returns.
Unless we learn to manage our time, we will be unable to achieve anything of value: “By the passage of Time, Verily, man is in loss, Except those who develop faith, and do good deeds, And join together in the mutual teachings of Truth. And of patience and constancy.” (Surat Al-Asr). Here, the Quran gives clear instruction on the activities that are worthwhile pursuing and spending our time in.
Mindless, meaningless continuous entertainment is a complete waste of life and is entirely against the teachings of Islam. It is something we must be very careful about since it is promoted constantly in our instant gratification and consumerism focused society. We must be vigilant about our time and consciously decide how to spend it. We are accountable to God for how we spend our time.
Problems Are Opportunities
This teaching from The Quran and the Life of Excellence changed my life: “God is like a coach in the gym who wants me to jump over the bar. He sets it high enough so that I will hit the bar and fall, until I figure out how to jump higher.”
Problems and hardships are an inevitable part of life. They are indeed a sign of life. We will only stop having problems when we stop having life. Once we accept this reality, we can move forward and change how we view our problems. Problems have purpose and meaning. They are not random and they are not God’s punishment. They are placed by God in our lives for our own benefit and growth. Through problems we expand, become stronger and rise to a higher level. Once we ingrain this belief deep within ourselves, our lives completely change.
Dr. Sultan Abdulhameed explains it wonderfully: “Those who make a big difference in the world think of their problems as opportunities and go after them. Those who fail in life think of their problems as punishments and shrink away from them.”
If we believe that God is Most Merciful, Most Compassionate and is our Sustainer, it is easy to also believe that problems exist for our benefit and always come with solutions. And therein lies the key to our growth:
“And behold, with every hardship comes ease. Indeed, with every hardship comes ease” (94: 5-6). This aya tells us that with the problem comes the solution. The solution is not separate from the problem. For example, if my problem is that I hate my meaningless low-paying job, the solution is to find a meaningful one that compensates me adequately. It is not easy, of course, to attain this, but the process of getting there will cause me to grow tremendously as an individual. And with faith, effort, sustained focus and determination, I will succeed.
The problem itself, if we learn to focus on its possible solutions and lessons, holds the key that will free us from it. If I didn’t mind that my job were meaningless, I would never start thinking of possible new jobs, and I would remain complacent and stagnate.
However, it is important to be aware that if we wallow on the problem itself, instead of directing our energy to the potential solutions, and we lament constantly about how miserable our job makes us rather than confronting it by taking action, thinking of ideas and seeking other work, the negativity will attract more negativity and keep us stuck where we are.
A very powerful exercise to change the way we think is: Whenever you think of a problem in your life, immediately switch to thinking about possible solutions.
Say to yourself:
What will be the positive outcome if this difficulty is resolved?
What can I do to make this situation better?
Who can help me to resolve this difficulty?
Self-Confidence Through Reliance in God
Lack of self-confidence is an epidemic in our society. People look for it in all the wrong places where it can never be found. As Muslims, our strong sense of self-confidence is derived from our personal knowledge and understanding that God is always ready and willing to assist us when we pursue a higher purpose.
Self-confidence comes from depending on God and knowing that He is there to help and protect us. God makes a promise in the Quran to “make smooth…the path of Bliss” (92:7) for whoever “gives and is pious and in all sincerity believes in goodness” (92:5-6).
Self-confidence, explains Khurram Murad, “also emanates from knowing that Allah in His infinite mercy has equipped you with all you require to undertake the tasks set before you. It is not characteristic of the One that is Most Just and Most Merciful to prepare you for a task without equipping you with the necessary tools.” (In the Early Hours, p. 13).
Self-confidence for a Muslim is the exact opposite of arrogance. In arrogance, we believe that our achievements and positive qualities are our own and stem solely from our own effort and that therefore we are great. In Islam, we believe that everything we are and everything we achieve comes from the grace of God. We have self-confidence because we have complete reliance and trust in the Most Magnificent and Most Merciful Creator. We depend on Him completely, with strong faith.
We take purposeful action and are confident in our decisions and in our abilities because we are convinced that God wants us to succeed and to be the very best we can be. We have faith that God wants us to utilize to a maximum, and for the highest purpose, all the talents and abilities he gifted us with. This is why the self-confidence and determination of a Muslim who has strong faith is unshakable.
Will Power as a Result of Faith
Strong will power and perseverance are required to achieve any goal in life. Without will power and sustained effort, a person cannot do anything. The Quran explains that “one of the basic weaknesses in human nature which impedes self development is the weakness of will.” (In the Early Hours, p. 12). When narrating the story of Adam, God states: “And indeed, long ago, We made Our covenant with Adam; but he forgot, and We found no firmness of purpose in him” (20:115).
Khurram Murad explains that irada is the Quranic terminology for a sustained determination and a will power that is strong and forever responsive. Irada requires strength and consistency and is in fact “the antithesis of doubt, hesitation or lethargy. Once irada is firmly in place, then you must have no doubts and you must not hesitate” (Id).
As most of us have experienced, it is very difficult to achieve anything with will power alone. We need faith and prayer to sustain our efforts. Irada is faith. Faith is the very thing that gives us the strength to systematically and continuously persevere in our efforts. We believe God will help us to attain our objective and we act based on this conviction. In other words, we express our faith through our actions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) achieved so much in his life because of his strong faith, which he acquired through prayer and the constant remembrance of God. Prayer sustained him and allowed him to always act with strength, conviction and hope. Of course, this assumes that our objective is a high one and has as its ultimate purpose seeking the pleasure of God. We will be unable to succeed if this is not the case.
May Allah grant us the ability to apply these powerful teachings to our lives and to make 2015 our best year yet, one that leads to personal success and to the resurgence of Muslims worldwide.
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