New York - I am firmly convinced Islam is the best medicine for any human affliction. It is the ultimate source of psychological, emotional, spiritual, physical and even financial well-being. Islam reconnects us with our true essence and with all that is good, honorable and pure. It is the natural answer to a human being’s instinctive quest for truth, justice, and beauty and teaches us the path to prosperity.
New York – I am firmly convinced Islam is the best medicine for any human affliction. It is the ultimate source of psychological, emotional, spiritual, physical and even financial well-being. Islam reconnects us with our true essence and with all that is good, honorable and pure. It is the natural answer to a human being’s instinctive quest for truth, justice, and beauty and teaches us the path to prosperity.
Its powerful message rescues us from the self-destructive perils of egoism and protects us from our modern society’s reduction of humans to the material. The Quran invites us to seek knowledge and reflect so we may appreciate truth and derive our power from it.
Islam serves as an infallible vaccine against the disease of greed, bottomless lust for material acquisition, and unquenchable thirst for pleasure and instant gratification. Our religion’s wisdom is the doorway to values that fortify the spirit, such as love, unity, respect and peace. The teachings of Islam, when consistently applied to our lives, make us remarkably strong individuals.
It is our duty as Muslims to utilize this wisdom to strengthen our inner selves, excel in every area of our lives, and make a great contribution to the world. The following teachings can help us do that:
The Innate Dignity and Value of a Human Being
As human beings, we possess innate dignity and value. We were created by the Mightiest God and these qualities are an integral part of our nature:
Indeed, We have conferred dignity on the children of Adam, carried them over land and sea, provided for them nourishment out of good things, and endowed them far above most of Our creation (Quran 17:70).
Dr. Sultan Abdulhameed explains that this aya “points to an important spiritual reality: the intrinsic worth of man because of his great potential. Everyone knows this truth instinctively. For this reason, the most important need of a human being is to feel valued, to be respected and to be honored.”
We don’t need to earn our self-worth by accomplishing anything; it was given to us by God. However, when we internalize this truth, great achievement is inevitable. We must first become conscious of the fact that we were made by the Most Magnificent God and that we have a degree of His magnificence within us. If we reflect on this idea regularly until it becomes a conviction, we begin making favorable choices in every situation and, eventually, these accumulate, resulting in a spectacularly successful life.
We are blessed as Muslims because a solid understanding of our religion gives us freedom and power. God infused us with His spirit and therefore, we have inherent great worth. Through this understanding, we are saved from the agony of desperately seeking to conform to externally imposed ideals. We are preciously unique creatures and do not need to prove our worth by spending our lives chasing after material and social standards of success dictated by society or imitating the artificial beauty norms established by the latest trends. This never-ending chase destroys a person’s self-esteem.
In contrast, when we have high self-esteems, we treasure our lives and spend our time wisely. We take care of our minds by constantly learning, of our souls by reflecting and praying, and of our health and bodies by eating well and exercising. Our bodies and our souls were given to us by God as a trust; they do not belong to us. We are accountable for them and must take excellent care of them. If we follow this path, the path of Islam, we manifest an inner and outer beauty so radiant and powerful that no superficial approach could ever match it.
The Quran and the Life of Excellence teaches us that in order to benefit from this knowledge: “we should act in ways that recognize our self-esteem, irrespective of our circumstances. Train yourself to behave with poise, to walk like a dignified person, and to talk like a noble person.
Do not use words of inferior meanings and never use foul language. You create your self-esteem by how you conduct yourself when you are alone. Always be aware that the way you dress, sit, stand, talk or eat, even when you are by yourself, makes a statement about the value you place on yourself.”
Hope, Optimism and Faith
Pessimism is an act of disbelief. The Quran clearly states:
“And who but those who have gone astray despair and abandon hope of their Lord’s Mercy?” (15:56)
If we have strong faith, we do not despair and we do not succumb to hopelessness or pessimism. If we are having difficulty with this, we can follow Prophet Muhammad’s example and regularly pray for God to increase our faith. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Faith wears out in the heart of anyone of you just as clothes wear out, so ask Allah to renew the faith in your hearts.”
As Muslims, we believe in the Most Merciful and Most Compassionate God who is also the Most Powerful. Pessimism and hopelessness are a denial of these truths and, therefore, of our faith. If we have tried and failed repeatedly, our efforts are not wasted. We have earned countless gains through them.
We should not feel disappointed or pessimistic and we must never give up. God’s promises are true and will happen if we stay strong in our faith, regardless of the external circumstances. Being optimistic, hopeful and perseverant are real ways to express our faith in action. Stating we believe in God and in Islam while acting in self-defeating pessimistic ways is a form of falsehood. Faith and action always go together.
When facing a trying situation, Dr. Sultan advises us to acknowledge that what we are seeing is only “a small part of the whole picture. The complete state of affairs is known to God. He is most compassionate and merciful. His grace is always present. He created me, loves me, and is in charge of my affairs. I trust Him completely. I am sure there will be a positive outcome from the situation I am in.”
Hope and optimism are, therefore, the very essence of our faith.
Avoiding the Obsession for More and More
The following sura has strongly impacted me and become ingrained in my mind:
“The obsession for more and more diverts you until you go to the graves. But you will soon know, and again, you will soon get to know. If you but knew it with certain knowledge you would be seeing a blaze. Surely you will then see it with certainty of sight. Then on that day you will be questioned about your indulgences.” (Surat At-Takathur)
We live in a society obsessed with the accumulation of material wealth. We pursue it at any cost, even the oppression and destruction of human lives. But we know deep down that life has a higher purpose. The Quran warns us of the dangers of wasting our lives infatuated with material acquisitions. This sura “teaches us to become conscious of the value of life now so we can use our time for better purposes.”
Every person knows at some level that buying more things, and accumulating more wealth, does not bring meaning to our lives. We get caught in a sort of unconscious collective madness and we imagine that money is the most important thing in life. Some people make it their god and do anything for it.
This is a sad and a wasted life because deep meaning and fulfillment are only obtained “by working toward a purpose that is larger than yourself, something that creates goodness beyond our personal needs.” A clear understanding of our religion and application of its wisdom helps us avoid this insanity and stay focused on worthwhile pursuits throughout our lives.
We must also remember that wealth and possessions do not belong to us, but are blessings from God and belong to Him. We will not be taking them with us when we die, but we surely forget and act as if we will. Wealth can be of great benefit if we know how to use it wisely and for the sake of God.
That is, to help alleviate the suffering of others, build things of value that help the community, and live life fully but without ostentation or wastefulness. However, we must never become attached to money or make it the main goal in our lives: “Do not covet this world, and Allah will love you; do not cover what people possess, and people will love you.” (Sahih Bukhari).
The Power of Mindful Prayer
Prayer is magical and can help us achieve miraculous results we would never be able to attain on our own. Prayer is our conversation with God and what we ask Him, He will give us. If we want expansion, or we want purpose, we should ask God. Dr. Sultan states that “very little is accomplished with will power alone. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) achieved so much success in his life through prayer. Prayer was the source of his power.”
Prayer has tremendous power and it must be done attentively for “there is calamity for those who pray, who are unmindful in their prayer.” (107:4-5). The Quran and the Life of Excellence teaches us that praying mindlessly “damages a person’s spirit and produces chaos in his or her life. It is because of a lack of understanding of this fact that so many people who pray regularly live failed lives. Others see them and conclude that it is better to stay away from religion.”
But obviously this is not the answer. The solution is to realize that the main purpose of prayer is to connect with God and, through this communication, move to a better and more purposeful life. The quality of our prayers is enormously important and should not be overlooked. The warning of the Quran is a pretty serious one: disaster is a consequence of heedless prayer.
On the other hand, mindful prayer works miraculously. What we focus our attention on a systematic basis expands and we will find in our lives. This is the purpose of prayer, explains Dr. Sultan. The words people use, he elaborates, are means of invoking the corresponding feelings. The words are just a way to express our feelings. We pray with what is in our hearts. And if our hearts are absent from the prayer, our life will become similarly empty or chaotic.
It is of utmost importance to understand the words we use in prayer and to make praying a meaningful experience. Repeating things we don’t understand and praying distractedly have very dire consequences. You can pray all day in this fashion and never find meaning.
To avoid this, Dr. Sultan recommends that we learn the meaning and feeling associated with each sentence we use in our prayer. For example, take one sentence of Al-Fatiha, think about it, learn about it, reflect on how it relates to your life, and what it means to you. Then go to the next one, and continue this way until you have connected deeply with each of Al-Fatiha’s seven sentences. You can also pray in your own language because the central point is that “your innermost thoughts and feelings are the essence of prayer.”
If we follow this advice, over time and with practice, our prayer will evolve and we will notice positive changes: The results of mindful prayer will be manifested in our lives.
In order to obtain abundance, I strongly recommend that you study The Quran and the Life of Excellence. It will cause you to grow exponentially. This book is a treasure that I cannot stop being in awe of every time I open it. I am obsessed with this book and can read it forever. In a few months it has enormously increased the level of abundance in every area of my life. This magical book teaches us that:
“Because of the power of the divine spirit in the human being, he creates everything in abundance, in profusion, in plenty, compared to the other species with whom he shares this planet. And this ability comes from our capacity to focus our attention. We human beings have the ability to think, and we shape the world with our thinking. What we think continuously, what we imagine, what we talk about again and again, we find in great abundance.”
God infused us with His divine spirit and therefore, it is in our nature to create and we will create. It is inevitable. We create just by being alive because of our capacity to think: our thoughts create our reality. What we focus on continuously manifests in our lives. Therefore, it is a matter of what we want to create, a matter of learning to focus our thoughts and energy. If we don’t learn to consciously select our thoughts and concentrate our attention, the consequences will be quite disturbing:
“There are people whose lives result in nothing. They think of nothing in particular. Their desires are weak and their attention wanders from object to object…The power of the spirit in them also creates but does not have the chance to accumulate. You can live a long time and have nothing to show for it. You created nothingness in abundance.”
This idea terrified me when I first read it. It still does. But it actually worked extremely well to motivate me to finally apply myself in my life.
We need to reflect regularly, determine what we want, pray for it, and focus on it often with all our energy because the capacity for abundance is part of our nature:
“Behold, We have granted you abundance. So pray to your Lord who nurtures, and sacrifice. Verily, the opposition to you will be cut off.” (Surat Al-Kawthar).
Dr. Sultan explains that “in order to obtain abundance, we have to sacrifice by living a life of discipline. You have to give up distractions and concentrate your energy on your objective. Idle talk, gossip and laziness have no room in the life of a person seeking something worthwhile. You have to make time daily to remember the nurture of your Lord.”
However, there is a catch: We must let go of our tendency to be selfish. We will only succeed in attaining true abundance if our objective “is a source of good to the world and…we seek it to help others.”
* All quotations that are not properly cited (for readability purposes) refer to “The Quran and the Life of Excellence” by Dr. Sultan Abdulhameed. The majority of the ideas discussed also come from this book and from Dr. Sultan’s Quran Discussions and teachings.
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