1987-June / July
Striving For Excellence
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
To any who wish for the transitory things (of this life), We readily grant them such
things as we will:... in the end have We provided Hell for them. They will burn
therein, disgraced and rejected. Those who wish for the (things of) the Hereafter, and
strive therefor with due striving, and have faith—they are the ones whose striving is
acceptable (to God). Of the bounties of your Lord We bestow freely on all.... The
bounties of your Lord are not closed (to anyone). See how we have bestowed more on
some than on others; but verily the Hereafter is more in rank and gradation, and more
Holy Qur'an 17:19-20
The Principle of Faith
We want to look at the above revelation from God and see the substance of what
is most important to us. First, it requires that we be people of faith and obey God. It requires that we be Muslims, standing upon the principles of faith in Al-Islam, The principle addressed here is belief in what the Last Day holds for us. We can only hope that we earn the best by our behavior to please God and follow His Messenger. Those who do not live by the principle of faith are destined to be in Hell. Even though we may have a lot of knowledge, we can still be in Hell. If our faith is right, it will bring us the good life.
In this revelation, not only is the principle of faith and regard for the Hereafter held above the principles of this world, but we are also given a way of looking at ourselves and our place in this vast creation. For instance, it teaches us that Muslims should not live as much for immediate ends as for future ends. When it comes to looking at ourselves, our obligations, and what our aim should be in this world, we should put more importance on distant objectives, and less importance on immediate objectives. We will be in a good situation if we put God above all things, fear Him over all other rewards and follow Him and His Messenger.
God has clearly pointed out to us the immediate things: fine houses, fine cars, beautiful women, great wealth, etcetera. These arc the things of the world, the immediate things. God says that in comparison with the rewards in the latter stage, things which you gain from this world are nil, very little. He tells us in the Holy Qur'an, "Whatever you are given (here) is (but) a convenience of this life, but that which is with Allah is better and more lasting—it is for those who believe and put their trust in their Lord.
Look at African-Americans, They are not deprived of owning fine cars: Mercedes Benzes, BMW's, Cadillacs or Lincolns. We see these cars in our neighborhoods. We are not deprived of having fine women or the glitter of this world: gold necklaces, diamond rings, and money to show off. Because of the desire for these things, many African-Americans can hardly stay in one place for six month, due to bills driving them on to another location. This happens because we put those immediate things above the end. We should approach life with the principle that the end objectives are more important than the immediate.
First Things First
We must put first things first. Allah is first and most important What He has ordered is first and more important. Following the practices (sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is more important than following the movie star. The greatest temptation we have in society today is to blindly follow others in their life's habits.
We have the Word of God (Qur'an), and the practical life (sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad to protect us from the strong temptation to be dominated in our minds and mental makeup by man's fabricated ideas, philosophies and lifestyles, such as what we see coming from Hollywood and other media that produce forms of creatures to influence our life patterns. On the believers whose hearts are with God, the Qur'an, and the sunnah of the Prophet are saved from such influences.
We say in one of our prayers, "I have wronged my ownself, and I confess my faults...." In this very same prayer we ask God to take away from us our faults, our sins.
We also say in this same prayer, "Surely I have oppressed myself...." We are responsible for the oppression of ourselves. Oppression means to hold down, to prevent something from growing or functioning as it was intended. If our living habits, our lifestyle, prevents Islamic growth in us, then we are the oppressors of ourselves, and this is why we ask God to forgive us in our prayers.
The Excellent Model
God says of Prophet Muhammad, "Surely you will find in the Messenger of God, the most excellent model for any who believe in God and the Last Day." The true believer will take Prophet Muhammad for a model, for an example, and they will not accept anyone other than him dictating their behavior or lifestyle, as they know that he has been given to us by God. He shows us through Prophet Muhammad the excellence He wants in all of us. In following the excellence we see in Prophet Muhammad, we will receive the blessings and favors of God.
Prophet Muhammad has said, "The believer is one who whenever he sets out to do a work, seeks to perfect it." He has also said, "Allah has prescribed excellence for everything." Then the Qur'an tells us, "We have indeed created man in the best of molds, then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low—except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing."
Whatever we do, we should be striving to do it in the best way that we possibly can—seeking excellence in whatever we do. If we deliver a speech, paint the walls, drive a vehicle, do carpentry work, manage a bank, reprimand a mischievous child, prepare a meal, no matter what it may be, we are to follow the principle Prophet Muhammad has given to us—we should be striving to do it in the best way, seeking to perfect it.
The believer is obligated to seek excellence. Even our daily conversation should be disciplined; God forbids that we take part in foolishness or idle talk. We should not let ourselves be given to wasting time and foolish talk even in a casual or social gathering with each other. God has created us as honorable creatures, but He has given us rational minds and a limited freedom to exercise our own choice in matters. He has made the human being in the best of molds, which includes our features, our shape, our designs, every aspect of our being. In creating us in excellence, He requires of us excellence in everything.
God tells us in the Holy Qur'an that He could have made all people believers if He had so willed, but He left us with the dignity of exercising our choice in order that we may earn our own reward from Him, above that which He has given in creating us.
A Muslim should seek those things that God has made an obligation on him, and has made a top priority. Top priority in the life of a Muslim is certainly not the immediate appetite or things of this immediate world, but are things that men look forward to down the road; they know that in working for the long range objectives, they will best serve themselves, their families and their communities. If we desire to have success in this life and in the future life, we should study the following verses of the Qur'an, and live our life accordingly.
"Say: Who has forbidden the beautiful
(gifts) of Allah, which He has produced
for His servants, and the things clean
and pure (which He has provided) for
sustenance? Say: They are in the life of
this world for those who believe, and
purely for them on the Day of Judgment.
Thus do We explain the Signs in detail
for those who understand. Say: the
things that my Lord has indeed forbidden
are: shameful deeds, whether open or
secret; sins and trespasses against truth