Sunday, 19 June 2011

Increasing Productivity: Lesson 5 – Know Yourself

“Times change so quickly that if you and I don’t keep up with the times, we’ll find ourselves with an umbrella in our hand, over our head, when the sun is out. Or we’ll find ourselves standing in the rain, with the umbrella inside the door.” Malcolm X
These wise words are shared by a renowned historical leader in Islam, (may Allah have mercy on him). What these words make very clear, for everyone with a genuine interest to be a better, stronger and more productive Muslim, is that we must respond to our environment. We must make decisions based on where we are, with a focus of where we want to be, and then bridge the gap between both.

A ‘Living Testimony’ to Good?
Brothers and sisters, there is a movie called ‘Weather Man’, which is an exploration of the life of a weather man played by Nicholas Cage. Now in this movie they show a ‘living funeral’, and it quite an interesting concept; they hold the funeral eulogy of the person before they die. This is so the ‘to be deceased’ can be part of the celebration of their life. Now despite being bizarre, it is actually a very interesting idea as it allows an individual to take account of their life, to see how the people will speak of them when they are dead, and it is a motivating force to correct him- or herself before they are dead.

So let’s say we’re at your ‘living funeral’ – one by one the people in your life take the podium to speak about you. What will they say? How will they speak of you? Scary, right?
Now, with fear being the strongest emotion known to man, use this brothers and sisters to reflect and genuinely look at your life, and how you are using the time in this short journey. Imagine being at your living funeral, who will take the podium and what will they say? Will there be millions of people testifying to the good deeds you did and enabled others to do? Will there be a mosaic of orphans, widows, former disbelievers, and the poor wanting to speak about how they benefited from your existence? Or will it just be your family saying how they loved you, or even perhaps how they didn’t? We may be afraid to learn the truth in self-evaluation.
’Muhasabah’: Your ‘Reality Check’

Now this concept of ‘muhasabah’ or taking account of oneself is something that should be at the foremost part of our psyche. We see that this was something very evident amongst the Companions (May Allah be pleased with them all); consider those words of the son of Umar, who said what means: ’When you survive till the evening do not expect to live until the morning; and when you survive till the morning do not expect to live until the evening. While in good health (do good deeds) before you fall sick; and while you are alive (do good deeds) before death strikes.’ [Sahih Bukhari]

With this reality, brothers and sisters, let us take a deep look into our lives and come to know ourselves and what we genuinely want to achieve with this small time we have in this world. What would we want our living funeral to showcase? If we really want it to be a display of righteousness, and testimonies from the around the world, all of which come together under the shade of sincerity, then we need to look at how we spend our time.
When we come back from work, what do we do and what could we do? We want to be from those who cared for the orphans and encouraged others to feed the poor as Allah commands in the Quran, or did we just go to the gym after work and crash when we got home?

We have to ask ourselves do we want to be from those who fed the poor people, yet are we from those who spent the weekend purely in ‘family time’ or out ‘with friends’ – Or are we from those that took 1 hour every Saturday and helped out at the local soup kitchen to feed the homeless?
Whoever knows himself, knows His Lord
The key is to know yourself and what you want to achieve and build the required activity into your life. Islam is not a religion, and Ihsaan is not an abstract concept. Islam is the way you live your life in accordance to Allah’s rights over you and Ihsaan is the quality to which you strive to do that action to.

We have to be a people with high aspirations and then pursue them. Consider the example of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) where Ibn Kathir reports about Al-Khandaq (The Battle of The Trench) Day and the spectacle of Companions (May Allah be pleased with them) are standing in a ditch, trying to break rocks to defend their beloved Medina from aggressors, and at this time, they are being told they will essentially have the riches of the world.
In and amongst the filth, rubble and dirt, they are being told of the palaces of the greatest empires on the face of the planet and how Islam will prevail. You can imagine it would have been difficult to comprehend. But they were hungry for success for Islam in this dunya and for themselves in the Hereafter, and they set their ambitions as high as possible.

Whilst they stood there in the dust and filth of a ditch outside Medina, they prepared for the palaces of the dunya and akhira. This was the ambition they had. Now what are ours? What are we aiming to achieve in dunya and akhira? Are we satisfied with mediocrity? Are we satisfied with the status quo? We all must ask ourselves in order to truly discover.

All of us need to take that step back and figure out who we are and want to be and then just go do it, what do you believe your goal in life to be? Share thoughts below.

About the Author:
Azim Kidwai, an aspiring productive Muslim, General Manager of Mercy Mission UK.